Updated Regina Public Schools plan 'very solid,' says Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation president

The school division published its changed version last Friday, with individual schools being required to post their school-specific plans by Wednesday.

Schools have to post own school-specific plans by Wednesday

Daily attendance in Regina public and Catholic schools will start the week of September 14, 2020. (Syda Productions/Shutterstock)

The president of the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation (STF) gives the Regina Public Schools division a good grade for its updated reopening plan.

The school division published its changed version last Friday, with individual schools being required to post their school-specific plans by Wednesday.

"Overall it looks like Regina Public [Schools]'s plan is very solid and there are lots of really good elements to it," said Patrick Maze, president of the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation.

The document provides more details about how and when the first week of school will be organized, with classes starting the week of Sept. 8 and daily attendance resuming on Sept. 14 in order "to allow time to learn and practice safety protocols," the plan says.

During week one, students with last names in the first half of the alphabet are scheduled to attend classes on Sept. 8 and 10, while the rest will go on Sept. 9 and 11. Cases where siblings have different last names will be coordinated and families can expect to receive more specific information.

Still some concerns left

While Maze generally believes the updated reopening plan for public schools in Regina is a thorough document, there are still some details left for principals to figure out at the school level, he said.

"I have some concerns over ... their capacity to carry out some aspects of the plan," said Maze.

In terms of facility operations, the plan requires maintenance staff to disinfect all washrooms twice during the day and at the end of each day. In addition, commonly touched spaces such as door handles need to be disinfected regularly.

The cleaning schedules sound good, Maze said, but he wonders if there will be enough staff available "for that type of rigorous scheduling."

Isolation area

The updated plan also requires each public school in Regina to designate an isolation area for people with COVID-19 symptoms. If no room is available for isolation, the person needs to be kept at least two metres away from others.

"That's a bit of a concern because I would personally want to be a lot more than two meters away," said Maze.

"I know that lots of schools are so overcrowded that having an isolation room dedicated for that purpose is going to be difficult."

Schools usually don't have extra staff members who could be pulled away from their tasks to supervise a student in the isolation room, said Maze.

Physical distancing

According to the president of the STF, teachers in the province are still worried about physical distancing possibilities in crowded classrooms.

The updated reopening plan requires classes to be set up for front-facing instruction. All staff as well as students in grade 4 or higher have to wear non-medical masks at school while it is recommended for younger children "when physical distancing is not possible," the plan says.

"One of the biggest concerns that I'm hearing from teachers is, 'we can't social distance in our school,'" said Maze.

Once classes have started in two weeks, teachers and students will have more clarity about how many children will actually be in one classroom.

"We are hearing rough numbers of anywhere from 10 to 30, 40 per cent of students who might end up staying at home and trying home-schooling or online learning for the first bit."

Overall the combination of the division's updated document and the school-specific plans "should go a long way to giving teachers confidence."

Regina Catholic Schools

Regina Catholic Schools (RCSD) revised their back-to-school plan on August 18.

Like in public schools, teachers at RCSD will welcome their students the week of Sept. 8, with a staggered first week of orientation. The high school year will be organized into four quarterly terms with students taking two 128-minute classes every day plus a last daily learning period of  64 minutes.

Schools will reach out to families by August 26 with more details.

RCSD offers a Back to School Transition line for families at 639-625-6029 from Monday to Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. CST.