The Holy Family Roman Catholic Separate School Division has plans in place for going to Level 3, when a case of COVID is found at one of their schools, so they will be able to react within a very short time, the board of trustees were told at their October board meeting on October 14. Currently the school division is at Level 2, as are most other school divisions around the province.
As education director Gwen Keith pointed out, “It’s a matter of when we have a case, not if.”
She noted she is the first contact for the school division by public health authorities, and she will enact contact tracing immediately upon being informed of a case.
“We will have to work quickly to move to Level 3,” she said, noting the first step is to determine who a person’s cohort or bubble is, whether a staff or a student.
“We move to contact tracing and we work in partnership with health to determine if we need to shut down,” said Keith, pointing to the example of Winston Knoll Collegiate in Regina the previous weekend.
The school divisions, including Holy Family, has contact with the province’s Chief Medical Health officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab, who keeps the boards informed about what is happening around the province with the pandemic.
When a school finds out about a COVID case, staff have to go in and do a deep cleaning, “and we have to decide how extensive it will be,” said Keith.
The staff also have to know the procedures if they have to stay home and what impact that will have on their paycheques, she added. “It’s been quite a journey to align with Health … We have to be ready to move if we have to.”
One of the challenges that has come up, said Keith, is teachers have complained that they can’t get in to get assessed.
“When you look at it from Health’s point of view, they’re not the top priority – the top priority is contact tracing,” said Keith. “This is a tight partnership with Health. I’m very pleased with the planning that goes on at these meetings.”
In regard to extra-curricular activities, Keith said there has been a lot of discussion about this topic, and in the end, the school division is taking their cues from the Re-Open Saskatchewan guidelines set by Public Health officials.
While the school division will allow extra-curr activities within cohorts, Keith said that Holy Family will not mandate staff to supervise the activities, but is leaving it to them if they want to voluntarily do so.
If schools move to Level 1, she added, then there can be some inter-school competition in sports.
Part of the challenge, added Keith, is knowing that there are sports ongoing in the community, such as minor football, soccer and hockey, and the parents of the children involved with those are upset that schools will not allow the same level of involvement.
“There are very clear rules around things. We’re keeping our kids safe,” she said, adding they won’t want anyone to come back to the school division and say a child was infected with COVID because they were being careless.
“There’s more and more pressure on the schools to do something,” said board chair Bruno Tuchscherer. “We’ll keep doing what we’re doing.