A doctors association in Saskatchewan is joining the call from teachers, some parents and the Opposition NDP urging the provincial government to apply more caution when reopening schools in September.
The Saskatchewan Medical Association said Friday its leaders recently met with the province’s chief medical health officer and other officials to discuss the back-to-school plan unveiled earlier this week.
Premier Scott Moe’s government plans to send students back to class in as normal a way as possible. There are some restrictions, but masks will not be mandatory and class sizes won’t be reduced.
The Ministry of Education has encouraged teachers and parents to take a look at more detailed safety plans developed by school divisions.
“Saskatchewan doctors think it’s prudent to set the safety bar higher at the outset, then lower it when we know what we are dealing with,” association president Dr. Barbara Konstantynowicz said in a news release.
The medical association said doctors have concerns and want to see more clear direction about wearing masks.
“Closed spaces with poor ventilation, crowded spaces with many people, and close-contact settings with close-range conversations are not uncommon in schools and these realities need to be front and centre in back to school plans.”
In response to the association’s concerns and recommendations from the Public Health Agency of Canada, Education Minister Gord Wyant said Friday officials are looking at making masks mandatory.
He said six million masks have been ordered and will be available for the school year if they are required.
“We’ve always said that this is a very fluid situation,” said Wyant, who defended the government’s plan as safe for staff and children.
The Public Health Agency of Canada recently released guidelines for operating K-12 schools during the COVID-19 pandemic, recommending non-medical cloth masks for children older than 10.
Wyant said the government strongly believes in the advice the province’s chief medical health officer, whose recommendations have factored in the community spread of COVID-19, which is different for every jurisdiction.
“The key for the Government of Saskatchewan and for the people of this province is to make sure that students go back to school in as safe a way as possible and is as normal a way as possible,” Wyant said.
“We’ll continue to look for advice. … Dr. Shahab is the chief medical health officer in this province and the advice he’s been giving us so far has been very good and I have no reason to doubt the advice he’s giving us now.”
The Opposition NDP has slammed Saskatchewan’s back-to-school plan as one of the worst in Canada for failing to address the concerns of families and teachers. The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation has also said it believes masks should be mandatory.
Sit-ins were planned Friday at the offices of Saskatchewan Party legislature members by parents who said they want more safety precautions implemented and smaller class sizes.
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