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Letter to the Editor: Is COVID-19 spreading in our public schools?

A letter to the editor from Fran Millar
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Letter to the Editor (Getty Images)

Fact — COVID-19 is in the public school system!!! 

Fact — If it is a variant, (which is more contagious and deadly,) it has not been made public. 
Fact — The public school board’s stance is that COVID is not spread through school contacts. Rather, it is brought into the schools through community non-compliance. 

Taking those three facts into consideration, some parents made the choice to keep their children home following the Easter break. Why? A few people did not abide by the restrictions placed on EVERYONE to protect the general population. What do I mean? Birthday parties were held for kids (posted on Facebook); larger than allowed family gatherings were held; and out of town trips (even to hot spots like Regina) were taken. Any asymptomatic person (be it staff or student) who fell into this category could return to school and unknowingly release the virus within a classroom. Community non-compliance is an understandable concern for parents and children with pre-existing conditions (diabetes, asthma, arthritis, etc.) It is also an understandable concern for parents who have witnessed anyone suffering with serious complications of the virus. 

Fact — If your child is in close contact with an infected student or staff member, your child, along with the classmates, will be sent home to isolate for up to two weeks. Any other school age children in each family are encouraged to return to school as normal!

Have you ever had to isolate a small child (6, 7, 8, years) at home? Because of the need for human contact, COVID-19 can spread within schools even when all precautions are taken. An isolated child that has been in contact with an infected classmate can develop symptoms, test positive, and spread COVID to other family members. An asymptomatic sibling, upon returning to school (as expected by the school board) could infect an entire classroom. 

A concerned parent who chooses to keep all their children home in this situation is not only thinking about their own family, they are also preventing any possible spread of the virus to other classrooms. If you give any thought to this reasoning it renders the school board’s analysis moot. 

Fact — The children that are voluntarily kept home by parents will receive assignments but are not eligible to receive virtual (Zoom) professional instruction as to how assignments are to be completed, but any child that has been isolated by the school will receive virtual instruction. This reasoning is the stance taken by the Director of Education. 

This fact appears to be an attempt to strong-arm parents to keep children in school. The cynical side of me wants to say it’s all about politics. It seems they think providing virtual lessons just costs too much in both time and money to be bothered with it. Unfortunately for parents that prefer to keep their children safe, this just adds more stress to an already stressful situation. It leaves them to wonder if they are doing the right thing. (Putting health over education.) How can a child’s progress be properly assessed if there is no virtual contact with their teacher?

Fact — The Premier (until now) did not seem to think that teachers and educational assistants are an essential service! These dedicated professionals work in an environment that at times must feel like a “large petri dish” where infections spread very easily. 

There have already been two deaths of people in the education system. Both were professional educators. One here in Moose Jaw and the other in Prince Albert. Thank goodness the Premier is finally allowing vaccinations of teachers to take place. 

That, however, does little to alleviate the concerns of parents described earlier in this article. Despite their fears, some parents will allow their children to return to school because no other options exist. 

What is the solution? Closing the schools does not seem to be an option. (Although it is probably the best one.) Support for children whose parents keep them home is not an option either. (This is a Prairie South School Board directive.)

What is the solution? We all look at life from our own perspective. The first step is to show respect for opinions from all sides. 

Schools need to remain open for parents who must work to make ends meet. Unnecessary hardship brought on by one parent staying home is not an option for many. Yet, placing children in possible danger of contracting COVID is not an option for parents with compromised children. 

The only solution as I see it is that the Premier intervenes with a solution that will adequately support all sides: parents, teachers, and the community alike. 

-- Fran Millar 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.