One of Saskatchewan’s largest school divisions is moving to remote learning as classrooms deal with a spike in COVID-19 infections and administrators struggle to find enough healthy staff to work.
Regina Public Schools says students in all grades will take classes from home next week, the final week before schools break for the holidays.
Students will continue learning remotely when the break ends on Jan. 4, and the plan is to have them to return to classrooms Jan. 11.
“We have had to close entire classes and schools overnight, often with less than 12-hours notice for parents and guardians. We have been challenged to replace teachers, educational assistants, and other staff who test positive or must self-isolate,” the division’s director of education, Greg Enion, said in a statement Monday.
“We are also acutely aware that if in-school classes were to continue up until the scheduled Dec. 21 holiday break, we could very likely see students and staff having to quarantine away from their families over the entire holiday period.”
The division, which runs 57 schools with about 24,000 students, said the move is proactive to avoid keeping students out of the classroom for even longer in the new year. It had previously closed eight elementary schools and one collegiate because of COVID-19.
It also said the plan may lower fears some staff have about being exposed to the virus. They are to continue working in schools while students learn remotely.
As of Monday, it cited a 24 per cent increase in employee absence days since the school year started and a “chronic shortfall of replacement staff due to more employee absences and a reduced pool of available substitute staff.”
Students and staff are also experiencing anxiety and other mental health related challenges, the division said.
Also Monday, the province reported 247 new infections.
The Ministry of Health said a person in their 60s who tested positive for the virus has died, bumping the provincial death toll up to 60.
There are 143 patients in hospital with COVID-19, eight more than the day before. Of those in hospital, 26 people are receiving intensive care.