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School is back, and so are the questions

An editorial on return to school plans
Kids walking to the bus
Kids are returning to schools, where life will look almost like back in 2019.

Summer vacation was, once again, a blur.

It seems like just yesterday that schools were being let out for the summer months. But that was about nine weeks ago. Sept. 1 marks the first day of classes for the 2021-22 school year. 

For those hoping that COVID-19 numbers would remain low during the summer months, that the end of COVID-19 restrictions wouldn’t impact case numbers and that we could have a return to classes without talking extensively of COVID, those hopes didn’t materialize.

While our numbers were low in the first few weeks without restrictions, we’ve seen a significant surge in cases throughout the province, and our case load is the highest it’s been in months. Of greater concern is that the number of people in hospital in Saskatchewan has grown, even if it’s often been at zero in the southeast.

The Holy Family Roman Catholic Separate School Division and the South East Cornerstone Public School Division have released their respective safe schools plans for the 2021-22 school year.  

It’s the sort of document that’s not going to make everyone happy. In fact, it’s going to leave a lot of people wanting. Some are going to ask why the documents aren’t tougher, why masks aren’t mandatory and why extracurricular activities are allowed to happen. 

And then you’re going to have those asking why any restrictions at all are allowed to happen, with masks once again being their favourite target. 

Those who didn’t like what they saw were quick to complain, although most opted for the illegitimacy of social media.  

Thankfully, the safe school plans aren’t as stringent as they were a year ago. We should be glad that young athletes will have the chance to showcase their skills in the sport(s) of their choice, that young musicians will get the chance to further their band and choral skills, and that clubs and groups will get to meet again.  

After all, these weren’t allowed at the start of the previous school year. And it was tough on the kids, especially those who were in Grade 12 and didn’t get to have the send-off traditionally afforded for graduates.

It’s worth noting that last year at this time, COVID case counts were at their lowest levels in Saskatchewan since the start of the pandemic. Once the outbreaks in the Hutterite colonies cleared up, there were 55 cases diagnosed in a 21-day span in late August and early September. Of course, the trend of low case numbers didn’t last long. And part of the reason cases surged the way they did was because students were back in school. 

This year, cases are much higher with school back, leaving some to wonder how much worse the case numbers will get this fall. 

At the same time, we need to have our kids in school. 

And it’s important to also have extracurricular activities, because those are such an enjoyable part of the school experience.  

We have a vaccine. The vaccine works. It’s resulted in a considerable decrease in deaths and hospitalizations in the intensive care unit. Those who have had severely adverse effects from COVID in the past few months are the unvaccinated.  

And while kids under the age of 12 can’t be vaccinated at this time, eventually there will be a vaccine for them.

Hopefully this school year will be a little more normal than the last. Hopefully the kids will get to run around and be part of team sports and band and extracurricular activities. Hopefully they will be able to have assemblies and field trips, and school plays and Christmas concerts. 

Hopefully schools can start having visitors again, because there are so many points in the school year in which parents want to enter the school to see what their kids have been up to. Zoom is nice, but we’ve seen countless times where it isn’t sufficient.

Hopefully, students will get to enjoy being kids in school again, even if they aren’t fully back to the normal of 2019.