Local presidents alarmed by rising COVID-19 cases

Sask Bulletin
October 13, 2021

Local association presidents met in Saskatoon on Friday, September 17, for the Presidents’ Gathering. As this was an opportunity for presidents and vice-presidents from across Saskatchewan to connect and discuss issues of importance, much of the discussion focused on COVID-19, including how the patchwork of measures are being implemented.

Presidents shared their frustrations about the lack of clear, consistent measures throughout the province.

A motion was made and passed unanimously by all presidents to call for the immediate reinstitution of the Education Sector Response Planning Team. In her update to presidents, STF Executive Director Bobbi Taillefer shared how valuable the RPT was in ensuring COVID-19 measures were implemented in schools efficiently and effectively. Taillefer was the STF’s representative on the RPT, which was disbanded when Saskatchewan’s public health orders ended on July 11.

“Classrooms are unlike any other place. Implementing some measures in a school requires different considerations,” said Taillefer. “This was one of the main benefits of RPT–education and health sector collaboration to ensure COVID-19 measures could be successfully put into place in our schools to best protect students.”

STF President Patrick Maze says if the RPT were in place, confusing and illogical isolation requirements could have been avoided. Students who are household close contacts of positive cases must isolate. However, if the student is asymptomatic and the close contact isn’t a household member, students are exempt from the mandatory isolation to attend school; however, they must isolate in all other scenarios.

“If someone is a close contact and might be contagious, their ability to spread COVID-19 isn’t less just because they are in class. School buses and classrooms likely present an increased risk due to the close quarters and population that isn’t eligible for a vaccine,” said Maze. “This decision is unnecessarily putting students and staff at risk.”

When the province reintroduced mandatory isolation and masking in the September public health order, it also reconvened the Business Sector Response Planning Team. On September 20, the STF wrote the Government of Saskatchewan formally requesting the Education Sector Response Planning Team be reconvened as well.

“The fourth wave is our worst yet and could have been avoided with proper measures,” said Maze.

“Students have a right to an education in a safe environment and with as few interruptions as possible. Teachers need to have a voice when these decisions are being made so we don’t end up with rules that put our youngest students at risk.”

As Presidents’ Gathering was held in-person, please note that significant COVID-19 precautions were taken by all attendees:

  • Proof of double vaccination or a recent negative COVID-19 test.
  • Mandatory masks, except when eating, drinking or speaking at the podium.
  • Enhanced hand hygiene and disinfecting measures, including microphones and podium between speakers.
  • Physical distancing measures were in place, including during the meeting with only two people per table.

Presidents' Gathering

Local association presidents and vice-presidents also took part in professional development, heard updates from Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation staff and engaged in discussions.

 

STF Professional Learning facilitated a team-building session that encouraged participants to consider what type of leadership has been required in the last year and what type of leadership would be required going forward. The session was led by STFPL Director Shaun McEachern (top) and STFPL Associate Director Connie Molnar (bottom).

 

Gerard Frison, president of Horizon Teachers’ Association, presented on how to include the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action in local agreements, using its recently ratified local implementation negotiating committee agreement as an example. Horizon School Division’s LINC agreement now includes one day per school year without loss of pay or benefits for teachers to attend Indigenous spiritual or cultural events, including professional development opportunities, in recognition of the Calls to Action.

 

Presidents and vice-presidents participated in a session focused on reframing a scripted territorial land acknowledgement in a more personal and meaningful way. It was an opportunity for participants to reflect on the practices in their local association and begin planning their own contextual territorial land acknowledgement. If you’re interested in learning more about moving beyond a scripted territorial land acknowledgement, check out the University of Alberta’s video Territorial Acknowledgements: Going Beyond the Script.

 

The session was led by Senior Administrative Staff Elizabeth Hutton (right) and STFPL Associate Director Linda Aspen-Baxter (left), who co-chair STF’s Inclusion, Diversity and Human Rights Committee (formerly Social Justice, Inclusion and Equity).

 

Local associations who contributed to the McDowell Foundation this year received certificates of appreciation from the McDowell Foundation Manager Ellen Whiteman and Fundraising Administrator Colleen Ostoforoff.