U-Turns now prohibited in school zones in Prince Albert

On Wednesday, September 2 the City of Prince Albert alerted motorists about changes in traffic enforcement coming soon as schools reopen next week.

The City warned that U-turns are no longer permitted in School Zones . An amendment to the City’s Traffic Bylaw now prohibits U-turns in School Zones from Monday to Friday, 8:00 a.m. To 5:00 p.m., from September to June.

“The best way to keep children safe in a school zone is to maximize visibility, ensuring that each child can see and be seen by drivers in the area. If a vehicle is performing a U-turn, children who are walking, running and playing in the area may not anticipate the change in direction. Similarly, as a driver is performing a U-turn blind spots change and the driver may not be able to see what is happening behind the vehicle,” the release said.

The fine for violating this new restriction is $100.

10 COVID-19 cases reported in province on Thursday

The province reported 10 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, which is the first double digit report since the middle of August.

There were six cases reported in the Saskatoon zone, two in the Central West and single cases in the North Central and South Central zones.

All of Saskatoon’s current active cases and several of the active cases in the rest of the province are directly related to out of province travel.

Of the 1,634 reported COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan, 36 are considered active after three more recoveries was reported.

The recovered number now sits at 1,574.

The number of deaths from COVID-19 remains at 24.

According to the new and active case breakdown, Prince Albert—the North Central 2 zone—currently has two active cases.

North Central 1, which includes communities such as Christopher Lake, Candle Lake and Meath Park, have no active cases. North Central 3, consisting of communities south of the city, also has no active cases.

The Saskatoon Zone currently has 11 active cases which is the most in the province. The second most active cases are seven in the North West zone, which includes North Battleford.

There are two people in hospital with illnesses related to COVID-19.

One person is receiving inpatient care and one person is listed in intensive care in Saskatoon.

The total number of cases is 1,634. Of those 419 cases from the south area (216 south west, 192 south central and 11 south east), 353 cases from the far north area (347 far north west and six far north east) , 267 cases from the Saskatoon area, 266 cases from the north area (130 north west, 70 north central and 66 north east), 195 cases from the central area (163 central west and 34 central east) and 132 cases are from the Regina area.

There have been 66 cases who are health care workers; however, the source of the infections is not related to their work environments in all instances.

Of the 1,634 cases in the province: 241 cases are related to travel, 831 are community contacts, which includes mass gatherings,486 have no known exposures and 76 are under investigation by local public health.

The age breakdown shows 275 cases involve people 19 years of age and under,525 cases are in the 20-39 age range,499 are in the 40-59 age range, 277 are in the 60-79 age range and 58 are in the 80-plus range.

The gender breakdown shows 51 per cent of the cases being females and 49 per cent being males.

As of September 3, 143,451 COVID-19 tests have been performed in the province an increase of 1,325 over yesterday.

As of September 1 when other provincial and national numbers were available from the Public Health Agency of Canada, Saskatchewan’s per capita rate was 102,609 people tested per million population. The national rate was 148,714 people tested per million population.

Saskatchewan Rivers School Division updates return to school plan

The Saskatchewan Rivers School Division has updated their Return to School Plan and updated the board on the changes at their regular board meeting on Monday, August 31. Changes have been made to front facing learning and expanding the teachers available for the online learning option.

During a report to the board, director of education Robert Bratvold said front-facing instruction was adjusted on August 28 with exceptions from Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab.

Front-facing instruction means all students face forward in their desks or work stations, something not always possible in all settings.

“One of the big things for us is the exemption around front facing instruction and that is big in terms of our early years, in terms of our phys-ed,” Bratvold said.

Exceptions including physical education, science labs, early years play based environments, group instruction such as guided reading and student supports done in a group format.

Written exemptions in other circumstances will be made by the teacher through the teacher, a superintendent who will forward the request to Public Health.

“It is an improved learning situation because there is so much research that learning through play in the early years, and it is not as though it is just a random playing so that is important too. But it is a structured learning environment through socializing and that is important for early years. But also that exemption to it for instruction is also important in things like practical fine arts shops, science labs, phys ed, gymnasiums. That was very well received and I’m thankful that the Chief Medical Officer of Health has seen the value of that but also provided some direction around that so that was a good piece for us,” Bratvold explained.

According to Bratvold they knew return to school plans would evolve according to direction from community context, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education directions ahead of school opening next Tuesday.

“We need to constantly be ready to adapt our plan,” Bratvold said.

Changes to the plan are now highlighted in green and the updated version is now posted at the Saskatchewan Rivers website. Trustees reviewed, discussed and approved the enhanced Return to School Plan.

Board chair Barry Hollick commended administration for their work on putting together the plan and having new superintendent Jennifer Hingley as part of that process.

“It is interesting having outside eyes because she started with us in August so that has added an element to our meetings as well. But I want to commend them for the work that they have done. Our board as well because we get community feedback, all of our trustees meet various members of the public so having that opportunity to share that with admin as well there is board input into the plan,” Hollick said.

More staff hired for remote learning

All students are now expected to participate in classroom learning, but remote learning is available to students with medical needs that prevent them from attending through the newly established SRPSD Distance Learning Centre . Online learning is available to students who choose to learn from home and whose family are prepared to commit to the new learning platform.

Nearly 500 students are interested in remote learning and the division has hired staff and done some planning around structure and supports for the model. They anticipate it as not just a temporary challenge, but a potential long-term idea. Several families have asked to begin the year remotely to see how things develop and later return to schools if possible.

The board approved the expenditure of additional funds for an additional eight teachers beyond the budgeted staff as an allocation to support the development in the implementation of the division’s online learning program.

“ We had lots of discussions around how that looked and it is a need that is current and pressing. We have seen it coming and this just sort of accelerated that need for us. We already hired four staff and we will add more staff. A bit of a positive coincidence was we had fewer retirees last year and so we have got a fairly strong pool of capable teachers who might have been on temporary contracts last year,” Bratvold said.

Bratvold explained that there are also some staff members with medical needs who cannot return to the classroom and they have matching skill sets and can be assigned to remote instruction.

They don’t have to be in a classroom with 20 or 25 kids, they will have 20 or 30 kids in a remote classroom and not have to be present. We still hire someone to replace them to backfill them but there is some capacity to reassign staff,” he explained.

In a report from Superintendent Neil Finch, it was noted that there will be more stress on the substitute teachers list due to COVID-19 but administration is trying to be ready. As far as advertising for substitute teachers, Finch anticipates seeing how the start of the year is going before possibly changing and looking into creative ways to recruit.

Multi-purpose rooms have been eliminated in the division but gymnasiums, libraries and computer labs will still have some multi-use function but will cycle fewer students through.

Mask guidelines updated for split classes

Staff must now wear a mask or face shield during interactions in the isolation room and students will be provided with a mask if not wearing one at the time and be required to wear a mask in the isolation room.

Mask guidelines in classrooms have also changed. In multi-graded classrooms that include students Grade 4 and above (such as a Grade 3/4 class) the entire class will be required to wear a mask. Masks are required for Physical Education that takes place indoors in situations that cannot have proper physical distancing. Outdoor activities in physical education will not require a mask. In both types of activities there will be limited physical contact.

Emergency lunch programs are now to be managed by staff and food is to be independently packaged and delivered to designated eating areas such as classrooms.

Vending machines may remain in operation following guidelines on limited students contacts at the site of the machine.

All students are required to participate in learning as set out by the teacher.

Partnerships already established in the division’s schools are to follow the Return to School plan and local schools are to coordinate their services with directions from the Principal. Access to facilities through partnerships is subject to change at any time and may be removed with guidance from the Health Authority.

As well, Pre-Kindergarten programs will continue to have staggered entry until the end of September. Principals can reduce the initial intake of students. Parents must ensure that the most vulnerable students are part of the first intake and the target is 20 students per class.

Hollick explained that each Thursday there is a meeting of all directors of education and board chairs. In one meeting the province told the directors and chairs that students would return with no masks. The Saskatchewan Rivers Division decided instead to err on the side of safety and institute masks for Grade 4 to 12.

“We feel fairly confident that we have really looked at all of the possibilities that are there for safety precautions and we certainly are taking them and implementing them,” he said.

Hollick also wanted to note how the stakeholders in the division have handled the entire situation.

“I want to commend the parents and the kids for going through what was probably the most unexpected few months of anyone’s life in education. We are really pleased with the feedback we have had from parents so far. We know people are apprehensive about getting back to school but we have been as careful as possible in making our plan. And with input from Health we are confident that we are going to have a safe start, so that is what we are anticipating anyway,” he said.

Government announces plan to address medical lab tech shortages

In a release on Tuesday the Ministry of Advanced Education, in partnership with Saskatchewan Polytechnic, is taking steps to address a labour market shortage of Combined Laboratory and X-Ray Technologists (CLXTs) in the province.

Saskatchewan Polytechnic will double the number of seats in the CLXT program by admitting another 20 students in early 2021. This is part of a larger government strategy to employ more technologists across the province and improve rural health care delivery.

“Ensuring we have the increased training capacity to meet labour market needs is a Growth Plan priority for our government,” Advanced Education Minister Tina Beaudry-Mellor said.

“Graduates of the Combined Laboratory and X-Ray Technologists program are in high demand in rural hospitals and health centres where they play an integral role on health care teams.”

“Combined Laboratory and X-Ray Technologists provide key medical diagnostic services including medical laboratory and x-ray procedures, and are an integral part of a health care team,” Rural and Remote Health Minister and Minister Responsible for Seniors Warren Kaeding said.

“They are especially important in the rural areas where they can use their full scope of skills in providing x-ray and laboratory services.”

“Saskatchewan Polytechnic is proud to be one of only two centres in Canada where students can complete the Combined Laboratory and X-Ray Technologists diploma program,” Saskatchewan Polytechnic President and CEO Dr. Larry Rosia said.

“We look forward to doubling the number of seats we can offer starting in January 2021 and meeting this health care need.”

The Combined Laboratory and X-Ray Technology program is a two-year diploma program offered at the Saskatchewan Polytechnic, Saskatoon Campus on Idylwyld Drive. Students complete their clinical practicum placement at approved sites across the province. Find more information on the Saskatchewan Polytechnic website.

The announcement comes a day after NDP Health Critic Vicki Mowat was critical of the government’s failure to address long-standing staffing issues that could delay expanded COVID-19 testing as schools reopen in a press availability on Monday.

Mowat called on the government to ensure capacity is in place to meet an expected surge in demand, and to begin random testing in places vulnerable to outbreak, such as schools, long-term care homes and homeless shelters.

Mowat raised concerns about ongoing staffing shortages that have been ongoing in recent years and could allegedly delay COVID-19 testing results as demand surges.

“We are calling on the government to ensure that capacity is in place to meet this expected surge in demand to make sure that we decrease the amount of time between testing and getting those results .To be able to get a handle on any outbreaks as they occur as quickly as possible,” Mowat said.

She also called on the government to ensure proactive random testing takes place in schools, long-term care facilities and shelters.

“We want to ensure that in a time that we know that a third of the cases are being traced to individuals that are in fact being spread in communities. We want to ensure we get a handle on those outbreaks as quickly as possible,” Mowat said.

Mowat pointed to a Saskatchewan Society of Medical Laboratory Technologists 2019 report showing that the number of lab techs in the province has been falling since 2014, impacting rural health care in particular. Mowat said that they were concerned with testing being below half of the stated capacity at this time.

“We know that demand is going to increase and the government has had now six months in this pandemic and they are still struggling, they are still lagging behind the rest of Canada with their per capita testing results at a time where unions are sounding the alarm about the availability of lab tests and the shortages that exist. At a time where the government is refusing to fairly bargain with lab techs,” she explained.

A shortage of Combined Laboratory and X-Ray Technicians (CLXT) in the province has frequently led to Emergency Room closures in rural areas.

“With combined lab and X-Ray technologists where we have seen rural shortages and have led to emergency room closures over the years. We are calling on the government to end the austerity approaches, to put people first and to make sure that these staffing issues are addressed so that we can meet the capacity for the expected surge in demand that comes with back to school,” she said.

With testing, she emphasized that there is more likely to be asymptomatic transmissions where people are vulnerable

“When you talk about locations like schools where we know that there is a higher likelihood children are going to be engaged in asymptomatic spreading of the virus. It is just a way to be able to identify that outbreak to minimize the spread to the community from those more communal settings risk for spreading COVID,” she said.

The NDP does not want SHA officials on site. Instead they want to see organized testing at different locations for asymptomatic individuals.

“It’s a way for having our capacity used as well and still being able to minimize outbreaks of the virus. In particular we look at the lag time between testing and getting results. One of the concerns is that there could be outbreaks happening at schools and won’t get notified about for a long period of time,” Mowat said.

Three new cases of COVID-19, including one in the Prince Albert area, reported Tuesday

The province reported three new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday.

There were single cases located in the Saskatoon and the North Central zone, which includes Prince Albert.

One case has a location pending.

Of the 1,622 reported COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan, 31 are considered active after six more recoveries were reported.

The recovered number now sits at 1,567.

The number of deaths from COVID-19 remains at 24.

According to the new and active case breakdown, Prince Albert—the North Central 2 zone—currently has one active case.

North Central 1, which includes communities such as Christopher Lake, Candle Lake and Meath Park, has no active cases. North Central 3, consisting of communities south of the city, also has no active cases.

There are three people in hospital with illnesses related to COVID-19.

One person is receiving inpatient care in Saskatoon. Two people are currently listed in intensive care in Saskatoon.

The gender breakdown shows 51 per cent of the cases being females and 49 per cent being males.

As of September 1, 140,906 COVID-19 tests have been performed in the province an increase of 653 over yesterday.

As of August 30 when other provincial and national numbers were available from the Public Health Agency of Canada, Saskatchewan’s per capita rate was 101,377 people tested per million population. The national rate was 146,435 people tested per million population.

New report shows adverse effects of COVID-19 pandemic on children

The COVID-19 pandemic has been having an adverse effect on Canadian children. The Raising Canada 2020 report reveals that many of the top threats to childhood, including mental illness, food insecurity, child abuse, physical inactivity and poverty may be increasing – or are in danger of increasing – because of the pandemic.

The report highlights new data related to these threats and points to emerging concerns.

“Since the outset of the pandemic, we have been worried that children were being disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Early indicators from this report suggest that children’s health is in jeopardy,” Sara Austin, founder and CEO of Children First Canada, said in a release.

“How the government chooses to respond will change the trajectory of children’s lives.”

Raising Canada 2020 is the third in an annual series of reports that track the top threats to childhood.

For more than a decade, the state of childhood in Canada has been on the decline. In recent months, the harsh realities facing young Canadians have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The statistics in this year’s report are alarming: One-third of children in Canada do not enjoy a safe and healthy childhood; one in three Canadians has experienced abuse before the age of 15; one in five children live in poverty, and suicide is now the leading cause of death for children aged 10 to 14.

The odds are particularly stark for Black, Indigenous (First Nations, Métis and Inuit), and other racialized children. These children are more likely to be exposed to adverse childhood experiences such as poverty and abuse, being overrepresented in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems and being suspended or expelled from school because of systemic racism and discrimination.

The 2020 report also included input from Statistics Canada.

“Meeting information needs in areas such as children’s health is key to addressing the challenges our children are facing today. Statistics Canada has a long history of producing data in this area and we look forward to partnerships such as this one to support policies and programs that contribute to the well-being of children in Canada,” says Lynn Barr-Telford, assistant chief statistician, social, health and labour statistics field.

The report is jointly published by Children First Canada and the University of Calgary’s O’Brien Institute for Public Health (OIPH) and the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute (ACHRI).

“This report is a stark reminder of the significant threats to child health and wellness in Canada likely exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Brent Hagel, Professor of the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary and a member of OIPH and ACHRI, said.

“It is also a call to action for us to address these issues and protect children’s rights.”

The report shows that 57% of participants aged 15 to 17 report that their mental health is “somewhat worse” or “much worse” than it was prior to physical distancing measures. (Crowdsourced data)

As well the World Health Organization (WHO) calls violence against children the hidden crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Canada, Kids Help Phone has reported an increase in specific conversations about physical, sexual and emotional abuse. As kids go back to school, reports of suspected child abuse may increase, once children are seen by trusted adults in their schools.

The reports shows that based on data from Statistics Canada 29 percent of Canadians report that the COVID-19 situation is having a moderate or major impact on their ability to meet financial obligations or essential needs.

A report from ParticipACTION shows that only 4.8% of children (ages 5 to 11) and 0.8% of youth (ages 12 to 17) are meeting 24-hour movement guidelines.

With food insecurity the report shows based on Statistics Canada data that 15% of Canadians indicated living in a household where they experienced food insecurity in the past 30 days.

Immunization shows a stark drop in vaccination rates in Canada where Paediatric infectious disease specialists say that vaccination rates among children have dropped as much as 20% in parts of Canada – ramping up anxieties that the country could face a series of infectious outbreaks while still battling COVID-19.

The report highlights the limited availability of race-based data, but indicates that Black, Indigenous (First Nations, Métisand Inuit), and other racialized children in Canada experience adverse health outcomes. As well In a recent survey of Canadian adults of Chinese origin, more than half of the adults surveyed are worried that Asian children will be bullied when they return to school according to Angus Reid polling service.

As challenging a time as this pandemic is for children, the report also highlights that along with children’s vulnerability, they also have incredible strength, resilience and wisdom. “Children must be engaged in Canada’s recovery efforts,” says Austin. “Truly child-centred policies can only happen when we act with children, rather than acting for them.”

As an accompaniment to the Raising Canada 2020 Report, Children First Canada’s Council of Champions released a call to action, urging the government to appoint a federal Commissioner for Children and Youth, a Children’s Budget and a national strategy to tackle the top 10 threats.

Aside from the threats impacted by COVID-19, climate change has been added to the list of threats analyzed in the 2020 report.

“In our consultations with youth over the past year, we heard repeatedly that they view climate change as one of the greatest threats to their current health as well as their future and is one of their top priorities for action,” Austin explained.

Children First Canada acknowledges the financial support from TD Bank Group, through the TD Ready Commitment, to help make this report possible.

As challenging a time as this pandemic is for children, the report also highlights that along with children’s vulnerability, they also have incredible strength, resilience and wisdom. “Children must be engaged in Canada’s recovery efforts,” Austin said.

“Truly child-centred policies can only happen when we act with children, rather than acting for them.”

CARP raises concerns for seniors as schools reopen

The Canadian Association of Retired People (CARP) is reminding Canadians that with a focus on students there are implications on the rest of the family “bubble” including grandparents in a release Monday.

They explained that grandparents will be facing tough decisions on how to remain safely connected to their grandchildren as a potential second wave of COVID-19 hits this fall.

“Many of our Members tell us they feel like we’re back in the early days of the pandemic, when so much anxiety was caused by the unknown,” Bill VanGorder, CARP’s Interim Chief Policy Officer said.

“Social isolation is wreaking havoc on seniors across the country. We’re seeing increased rates of depression, cognitive de cline and injury in vulnerable elders who have been cut off from their families due to physical distancing measures. Staying connected to grandchildren is key in keeping older people active, engaged and mentally healthy.”

The organization explained that that grandparents often care for children while their parents go to work, maintaining physical distance will be next to impossible for some families. This possibly poses a serious safety concern, as school-aged children are up to four times more likely to spread the virus to others—a risk older people need to avoid.

They said that with concerns mounting that schools will be a hotbed for outbreaks parents are opting to keep their kids at home or arrange to work from home themselves in order to protect their older loved ones from exposure to COVID-19. As well, according to CARP approximately 400,000 homes in Canada are intergenerational, meaning grandparents are intimately ingrained in the household alongside their younger family members.

“Parents are being reminded how integral grandparents are to keeping their lives running smoothly,” VanGorder explained.

“Many parents are going so far as to split up their family bubble into 2. One parent will bubble with the grandparents and the other with the kids. Urgency breeds creativity, and they want to make sure their family elders are as safe as possible going into the school year.”

The organization explained that for grandparents looking to stay connected to their grandkids, even when maintaining physical distance, there are many options. The organization has put together a list of ways to be a great physically distanced grandparents which was submitted by their membership.

The province reported four new cases of COVID-19 on Monday.

There were single cases located in the Saskatoon, Central East, South West and South Central zones.

Of the 1,619 reported COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan, 34 are considered active after 12 more recoveries were reported.

Investigations completed thus far have found that five of the 34 active cases are in communal living settings. The province said that the number of active cases in communal living settings is now very low and it will no longer be reported separately unless the number of active cases in these settings rises above 20.

The recovered number now sits at 1,561.

The number of deaths from COVID-19 remains at 24.

According to the new and active case breakdown, Prince Albert—the North Central 2 zone—currently has no active cases.

North Central 1, which includes communities such as Christopher Lake, Candle Lake and Meath Park, have no active cases. North Central 3, consisting of communities south of the city, also has no active cases.

There are three people in hospital with illnesses related to COVID-19.

One person is receiving inpatient care in Saskatoon. Two people are currently listed in intensive care in Saskatoon.

The gender breakdown shows 51 per cent of the cases being females and 49 per cent being males.

As of August 31, 140,253 COVID-19 tests have been performed in the province an increase of 981 over yesterday.

As of August 29 when other provincial and national numbers were available from the Public Health Agency of Canada, Saskatchewan’s per capita rate was 100,728 people tested per million population. The national rate was 144,734 people tested per million population.

SHA warns of possible exposure to COVID-19 at Regina airport and businesses

On Friday evening the Saskatchewan Health Authority sent out a release asking residents to self-monitor for signs of COVID-19 after a potential exposure at the Regina International Airport on Sunday, August 23 between 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m.

“The individual was in several areas of the airport, including visiting the Tim Horton’s business that is located in the secure area of the airport to the left of the screening area, prior to boarding a flight. This person is from a different province and that province will provide further information about the flights,” the SHA said.

Anyone already displaying COVID-19 symptoms should immediately self-isolate and call Healthline 811 to arrange for testing. The SHA says symptoms can develop anywhere from two to 14 days after exposure to the virus.

The SHA sends out public alerts when health officials are uncertain about the number of known close contacts COVID-19 patients had before being tested. In those cases, they notify the community about locations the patient may have visited while infectious.

On Sunday afternoon the Saskatchewan Health Authority sent out a release asking residents to self-monitor for signs of COVID-19 after a potential exposure at a number of Regina businesses between Aug. 23 an Aug. 27.

The first was on Aug. 23 at the Save on Foods on Albert Street South from 6 to 6:45 p.m., the second was at Evolution Fitness South on Pasqua Street from 1 to 2 p.m. and notes the potential exposure used free weights and finally from 8 to 10 p.m. on Aug. 27 at the Great Canadian Brewhouse on Gordon Road.

There are four new cases of COVID-19 to report in Saskatchewan on August 31, bringing the total to 1,619 reported cases.  The new cases are located in the Saskatoon (1), Central East (1), South West (1) and South Central (1) zones.

Of the 1,619 reported cases, 34 are considered active.  A total of 1,561 people have recovered.

Parent information packages for return to school released in Prince Albert

The Saskatchewan Rivers School Division and Prince Albert Catholic School Division both released a parent information package from the province on Thursday, August 27.

This served as a follow-up to school- specific plans released on the day prior.

The province said in a release that the Ministry of Education in collaboration with public health officials has released parent information packages for distribution to parents prior to the September 8 school year.

The Sask. Rivers Division thanked parents for their support and feedback in a letter sent Thursday. “Our schools are ready and able to welcome students back and to care for their mental wellness, physical health and their individual learning needs,” the letter, signed by board chair Barry Hollick and director of education Robert Bratvold, said.

The division reminded parents that remote learning options were avail- able as launched on Monday, August 24.They also encouraged those who have not registered to contact their local school or contact the Education Centre or website.

“We want to work with families to implement the best plans possible and that happens best when we have all students registered with our schools so we can connect and discuss their needs. If you have any questions about school plans or the division plans please connect with your local school principal or contact us at the Education Centre. We appreciate the opportunity to talk and work together,” the letter stated.

The Catholic Division’s letter to parents noted that the information contained in the package was important to read before the start of school. Parents or guardians are asked to be prepared for all scenarios.

“These situations may occur and may result in disruption of education processes for your child and family,” Catholic division director of education Lorel Trumier said in the letter.

“It is important to remember that no one is immune to communicable diseases. COVID-19 can impact anyone at any time. Be prepared and keep in- formed. Correspondence will continue to be provided to families via our web- site as information becomes available. Once school begins, communications can also be expected from school personnel as well.”

They also encouraged parents to visit both the province’s website and their own for more information.

These Parent information pack- ages contain general background on the Safe Schools Plan and guidance on how to prepare for a safe return to schools. e packages also include de- tailed fact-sheets on COVID-19 testing options and, processes for notification of illness in school and information regarding thresholds for changes to in classroom learning

“We know that as much information as possible will help parents, students, teachers and staff prepare for a safe return to schools,” Education Minister Gord Wyant said in the province’s press release.

He explained that the packages will ensure that important information and guidance is available including what parents can expect in the case of a positive COVID-19 result. This includes thresholds for changes to in classroom learning.

The package also contains new information on the process if a child, teacher or staff members tests positive for COVID-19 and guidance on further steps that could be taken including when individual students or cohorts should self-monitor or self-isolate.

Also included is information for parents and schools on thresholds for changes to in-classroom learning precipitated by the positive identification of COVID-19 in the classroom or school setting.

This approach was developed by public health and will be assessed throughout the school year based on transmission trends and risk, and health system and education system capacity. Thresholds included in the information packages outline scenarios for the identification of a single positive COVID-19 test result, out- break declarations in schools, and the pursuant thresholds for changes to in- classroom or school-wide delivery.

Parent information packages can be accessed via the document which was shared by school divisions on behalf of the Ministry of Education.

Local School Divisions ready for a different kind of year

Schools in the region will be returning to classes on September 8. Each of the divisions including the North East School Division (NESD), Prince Albert Catholic School Division, French school division and Saskatchewan Rivers School Division have recently released division guidelines.

Each division is following the guidelines set out by the province and released their division-wide and school-specific plans in August

Each of the schools in the Saskatchewan Rivers and Prince Albert Catholic Division have instituted staggered entry plans that are similar to those in the high school entry plans and dedicated entry doors.

Masks are required for Grade 4 to 12 and there are guidelines available for cloth masks in the re-entry plans. Disposable masks will be provided, and a pair of reusable masks are on order in the divisions for staff and for students.

Mask wearing for earlier grades is recommended, but not mandatory.

Both Prince Albert-based school divisions are opening with a mix of level 2 and 3 of the provincial plan, with a combination of in person and remote learning at the high school level.

In the NESD they will be limiting contact and exposure by staying in a small group, instead of mixing with the whole school. Students will re- main with a consistent cohort (bubble). There will be a homeroom bubble in elementary and One to three class bubbles in high school (dependent on the school size/schedule).

According to the NESD staff will support students to use designated and consistent assigned spots in the classroom. High school students will eat lunch with one of their bubbles. ere will also be a reduction in the number of staff in close and sustained contact with a cohort.

The NESD will be opening schools at Level 2 of the Safe Schools Plan after consultation with Public Health and all students Grade 4 to 12 will be required to wear masks on school buses, unless they are not able to do so safely. Students in pre-k to Grade 3 will be encouraged, but not required, to wear masks while in school or on buses.

The NESD is strongly recommending that students in Grade 4 to 8 wear masks in high traffic areas where social distancing is not possible. As well, masks will be required for all students in Grades 9 to 12 in high traffic areas and wherever physical distancing is not possible.

All staff members are also required to wear masks on buses and when working within a school facility when physical distancing of cannot be maintained. Parents and guardians are encouraged to purchase or construct reusable masks for their child or children but the school division will supply disposable non-medical masks as needed.

Safe transportation protocols include assigned seating for students and a record of this seating plan on school buses and students who live in the same household will be seated together.

As well where possible parents are encouraged to transport their own children and cleaning and sanitation of buses or other vehicles used to transport students is required be- tween each run. Safe access measures to schools include dedicated entrance and exit doors, staggered recess, lunch, and other class transition times to allow for additional space.

Safe classroom measures to reduce the risk of transmission in the classroom include limiting physical contact such as hugs and handholding, as well as encouraging the use of alternative greetings such as, utilizing outdoor spaces for learning when possible and clear protocols for bringing supplementary school materials such as backpacks and school supplies in and out of schools as well as classroom configuration to minimize contact.

For safe supports for all students local health officials will provide sup- port to divisions to implement measures including personal interactions with intensive needs/immune-com- promised students conditions will be in place to allow for the provision of supports within a safe and secure environment, which may include in-school setting or other appropriate spaces for the delivery of education and medically fragile students will have supports in place to address their educational needs.