Saskatchewan Teachers Federation president Patrick Maze says more consistent COVID-19 protocols may help alleviate “a tremendous anxiety” that exists among many teachers in the province.
There are currently four levels of restrictions in the province’s back-to-school plan, but it’s up to each school division to decide when to move to another level.
The province did recently made masks mandatory in schools for all students, employees and visitors unless they’re eating or drinking.
Nevertheless, Maze said he wants a consistent set of rules for every school division to abide by.
“When it’s a virus, when it’s a medical situation, we’re best to leave all precautions and recommendations and that up to medical health officials,” Maze told CBC Radio’s Saskatoon Morning.
Maze said he understands it’s a big province and different schools are in different situations, but that the virus can show up in any community at any time.
“it’s really a situation where we should have one set of standards for education that basically all school divisions are compelled to follow,” he said.
“I think it would be easier to understand for the public if it was one consistent set of standards.”
Moving online 1 option
Maze said switching to online learning province-wide would be one way to get everyone on the same page and keep everyone safe as case numbers stay high.
“Right now [teachers] have kids coming into their classroom who we know are involved in community transmission and are bringing it into their classrooms,” he told
“There’s just a tremendous anxiety as they don’t know when [or] where they’re being exposed.”
Online and in-person learning are happening around the province. Many schools without any cases of COVID-19 are using in-person learning, schools with a low number of cases are using a mixture of online and in-person learning, while schools with high case numbers have switched entirely to online learning.
Maze said moving exclusively online wouldn’t just help protect teachers and students, it would simplify the workload for teachers. He said many of them are teaching both in-person and online, and also working with students who are in isolation to keep them up to speed.
“It feels like they’re being pulled in three different directions and it’s just not sustainable,” he said.
“The bottom line is they’re still exposed to the virus as long as they’re going into their classrooms and being in front of students each day.”
Maze said he appreciates that some parents might be upset by schools moving to online learning, but safety for students and staff needs to be a top priority.
“There’s no perfect situation,” he said.
“We have to recognize the fact that we’re in a global pandemic right now and that people are getting sick and we need to take corrective measures in order to prevent that from happening.”
Maze said he understands online learning can be especially difficult for young kids who need supervision at home, but that it could prevent more cases of COVID-19.
Resistance to protocols ‘a bit frustrating’
More schools have been reporting COVID-19 cases recently. Maze said some could have been prevented had schools been moved to a higher restriction level earlier.
Even with rising numbers, there are a lot of people who still aren’t following protocols, which is putting teachers at risk, he said.
“There’s a lot of resistance among the Saskatchewan public to change their lifestyle habits until the virus is actually right in their community, right in front of them, and that’s a bit frustrating.”
Maze said his responsibility to keep teachers safe across the province is compromised when people refuse to follow pandemic protocols.
“I just wish that people would really listen to what public health has to say, listen to the experts, as opposed to what they read online,” he said.
“Their opinions really don’t matter in a global pandemic. What matters is what the medical health officers are telling us.”