Regina public and Catholic schools to move online due to concern over coronavirus variants
Students will switch to remote learning on March 24 and March 29, both going until April 12
Regina Public Schools (RPS) and the Regina Catholic School Division (RCS) announced Friday that their students will move to remote learning over the next two weeks.
The decisions come amid a rise in coronavirus variants of concern (VOC) cases in Regina.
The two school divisions say they have been in consultation with Regina medical health officers over the move to level 4 remote learning for their students.
There are now 156 confirmed cases involving variants in Saskatchewan: 149 of the B117 variant, which was first detected in the U.K., and seven of the B1351 variant, which was first detected in South Africa. The Regina zone accounts for 141 cases — or 90 per cent of the confirmed VOC cases reported in Saskatchewan.
There are also 508 presumptive VOC cases in the province. Regina has 85 per cent of all presumptive VOC cases with 434.
"We don't know what's coming ahead, but this is one very simple, proactive move that we can do that will allow students to keep learning, but will also minimize the risk to students and staff in terms of getting COVID-19 in our schools," said Terry Lazarou, supervisor of communications with RPS.
Lazarou says that while the schools are not informed as to whether positive COVID-19 cases in schools are linked to VOC or not, the district assumes the majority of the cases are.
"When we went to level 4 before and after the Christmas break, it was successful in terms of minimizing risk and minimizing cases," Lazarou said.
"We did a survey of parents and staff, and what we heard from them was they would favour us doing this again if the conditions warranted it. Over the past week or so, conditions from our understanding warrant a move that further promotes the the safety of our students and staff."
Effective March 24, all RPS grades 9 to 12 will begin remote learning. Effective March 29, all pre-kindergarten to grade 8 students will do the same.
According to RPS, all pre-Kindergarten to grade 12 in-school classes will resume on April 12 after spring break, which runs April 2 to April 9.
RPS says school families will receive letters and more information on Monday.
As for Regina's Catholic schools, effective March 29, all students will begin remote learning. The at-home period is expected to go until April 12 as well.
"We are running out of substitute staff available," said Twylla West, communications and media coordinator for RCS.
"Because of the pandemic, we're seeing a lot of staff members needing to self-isolate. And because of the variant, we understand that many people are being asked to self-isolate much longer than they were just a couple of months ago. And the level of available staff just isn't there. So it's about safety. And it's about providing that quality education."
Some RSC classes are already in remote learning due to COVID-19 cases, according to West.
West says RCS is waiting until March 29 for the general student population to go to remote learning in order to give staff and parents time to prepare.
She says a survey of parents following level 4 implementation around the Christmas period indicated that parents would understand having to return to remote learning if need be, but they would like sufficient notice.