WEYBURN – Schools in the Holy Family Roman Catholic Separate School Division are continuing to pivot as needed, with one school going to remote learning recently and, as of Monday, the school division no longer requiring any proof of vaccination or negative COVID tests.
The board of trustees heard an update on how the school division is handling COVID protocols at their February board meeting, held virtually.
Within the last month, only one school, St. Olivier in Radville, went to remote learning for a time, said education director Gwen Keith, based on the level of absenteeism of staff and students.
A school goes to remote learning when it reaches Level 4, she said. “At the end of the day, it’s a question of can we actually manage or not with the people on site and with the state of COVID.”
In regard to students who are absent, the staff try to determine if they are not at school because of illness, or because parents had some other reason, such as fear of exposing children to COVID at school, and this determines to an extent the kind of service they will get at home from the school.
“There’s a different level of service there for children who are legitimately sick. It’s based on the actual condition of the student,” said superintendent Chad Fingler, noting the schools no longer do contact tracing in the event a child comes down with COVID.
The trustees were shown an example of a report on absenteeism made to the Sask. Health Authority. The example showed Sacred Heart School in Estevan on Feb. 1 with 42 per cent of students out. As it happened, that day was a blizzard day, and the report noted that of the 140 absent students, 128 were not sick.
“I think you know in the last two years, we’ve certainly given a lot of help with schools to pivot because of COVID. We’ve made sure the technology was available. It’s available if you need it, and it’s still available if you need it,” said Keith.
She noted there were some classrooms that went remote for a time when it was required, but none of the schools other than St. Olivier had to go remote.
The rules have also changed in that students and staff are to self-report if they test positive for COVID.
“The parents don’t have to tell us if they’ve got a child with COVID. They are encouraged to but they don’t have to. It’s less of an exact science,” said Keith.
In terms of when masking mandates are due to end as of March 1st, she noted the schools will not be able to require anyone to wear a mask, but staff and students are encouraged to if they want to, and masks will still be made available for anyone who wants them.
She noted later in the meeting that while some of the COVID requirements are loosening, teachers still have an avenue to act.
“You have to realize if a teacher sees a child is ill, they can send the child home. That’s in the Education Act, and that hasn’t changed at all,” said Keith.
The school division also received a letter from the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation asking how they are protecting staff and students through this time.
“In light of all this, I’m so proud of our school division. There’s no question we are OH&S compliant,” said Keith.
Fingler added that in each school there is a requirement for the employer to keep their employees safe, and a requirement for employees to observe whatever rules are in place, including observing the current public health orders in place.
The OH&S committee of each school “can make suggestions on how they can be more safe,” he added. “Everybody is being encouraged to follow health and safety protocols.”
These would include such protocols as social distancing and hand hygiene.
“We’re still going to provide masks and hand sanitizer. If you’ve got anxious people, this is what you can do,” said Keith.