WEYBURN - A mother and community advocate approached the board of trustees of the South East Cornerstone Public School Division during their regular open business session on March 16, asking the board to evaluate the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kelley Wilson suggested the division had not supplied mental health support or suitable communication with communities as part of the $3.9 million forwarded to Cornerstone by the provincial government to combat the many challenges posed by the COVID-19 outbreak that began in early 2020.
Wilson stated that adult-like pressures were placed on students, partisan topics entered into discussions, and the precedent was set from the top down with a public stance on segregation being established that was deemed to be acceptable by the board and administration.
The social pressures of guilt, shame and embarrassment were inflicted on the students and teachers, and athletic coaches took on the role of “Gestapo agents,” in their insistence on following the masking, vaccination and testing protocols, she charged.
Wilson claimed the proper risk analysis had not been carried out and she was now asking for that so the board could take stock of the responses.
“Children shouldn’t have to … shoulder the burden of adult fear,” Wilson added.
Some of Wilson’s words raised the ire of trustee Norma Hewitt-Lendrum, a Weyburn representative, who challenged Wilson by asking her if she realized that about 80 per cent of the population was now vaccinated against the COVID virus and that “I would appreciate it if you’d never refer to teachers as Gestapo agents ever again.”
Vice-chairwoman Carol Flynn, who was directing the meeting in the absence of chairwoman Audrey Trombley, told Wilson a response would be sent to her in a timely manner and that it was the board’s intention only to listen to her complaint at this juncture.
But Flynn did take some time to run through a litany of safety measures and communication avenues used by Cornerstone during the pandemic, citing such things as upgrades to all school ventilation systems including newly formatted filters, the mental health support system that was beefed up to accommodate students and staff members, plus the deployment of counsellors and curriculum recovery projects launched to serve those who were undergoing social and emotional issues.
“We have 45 teachers trained for mental health issues, at least one in each building,” Flynn said. “We will reply to you regarding how the $3.9 million was spent.”
Flynn added that transparency was at the front of the COVID responses and carried on the division’s website, media and within communities, and that a transparency report was required and being filed with the provincial government as well.
Wilson said it was felt by the kids and parents that they were left with no choice and “we are just seeking transparency beyond public health announcements. Put it in a report and share it.”
Flynn and Weyburn trustee Melanie Sorenson noted that Cornerstone has been sharing the information all along.
“We are always searching for ways to communicate even better, so any suggestions you have will be welcomed,” said Sorenson.
Estevan trustee Eric McCrimmon asked Wilson where she was hearing comments regarding lack of information or masking mandates and possible mis-information?
Wilson replied the basic source came from her children, comments from other children and parents during the roll out of the pandemic.
In conclusion, Flynn repeated that the board’s formal response would be sent to Wilson in a timely fashion and she thanked her for input into the topic of responses to COVID-19 pandemic protocols in the school division.