Support Safe Schools for Saskatchewan

Support Safe Schools for Saskatchewan

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July 22, 2020

Dear Honourable Gordon Wyant, Q.C.,

We are writing to ask that you ensure the safety of our community in the reopening of Saskatchewan schools this fall. Recently the World Health Organization (WHO) was urged by over 200 scientists to declare COVID-19 an airborne disease. On July 6th, 2020, the WHO acknowledged that new evidence has emerged suggesting that COVID-19 is spread through airborne particles. Recently, the WHO has published an infographic outlining the three Cs to avoid: crowded places, closed-contact settings, and confined spaces with poor ventilation. The highest risk setting is when all three of these conditions cannot be avoided. This information can be viewed here. Many schools and classrooms in Saskatchewan are over capacity. Overcrowded schools and classrooms create the very conditions that the WHO recommends we avoid. 

A large study out of Korea, of 65,000 people, found that children do in fact spread Coronavirus. While children 10 and younger do no seem to spread it as often as older children, there is still risk. The study also warns that infection rates may rise through the opening of schools. The study indicates that the most worrisome group of children are middle and high school students, as older children are as big as adults, but may have the same “unhygienic habits as young children.” In fact, schools in Israel offer a tale of caution as 116 students and 14 teachers were infected in the Gymnasia Rehavia, a historic middle and high school in Jerusalem. More evidence is becoming available almost daily to support the fact that children can and do spread the virus, and that can put families and educational workers at risk of contracting the virus. 

There is even emerging evidence to suggest that there are long term effects of COVID-19, specifically to the lungs and brain. As well, while many children do not get very ill with COVID-19, some children suffer extraordinarily with Pediatric Inflammatory Multisystem Syndrome (PIMS) and become very sick. Children with asthma and diabetes are particularly at risk too. While the risk to many children will be low, we cannot ignore the fact that schools are run by adults, some of whom will have compromised immune systems and comorbidity. The same goes for the families of school children. We must do everything we can to keep schools safe and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in schools. 

We ask that you, with your power as the Minister of Education, please take the recommendations of the WHO under serious consideration to keep Saskatchewan communities safe when schools reopen. The WHO suggests that we limit crowded spaces - this means that class sizes must be reduced. Health Canada recommends that we maintain a 2m distance between others. Masks must be worn when physical distancing is not possible. This article outlines many of the things that must be done to maintain safe schools, like limiting class sizes and keeping students in one cohort, like a family. John Hopkins University also has a checklist for administrators of schools with many questions that must be answered before we are able to re-open schools safely. We ask that you please take the time to read over these articles and set out a more robust set of guidelines for schools to reopen. 

We know that you are a father and grandfather. We know that you would likely move mountains to keep your own children and grandchildren safe. The current plan set out by government for the reopening of schools does not address the latest evidence on the transmission of COVID-19. The plan is too simplistic and not prescriptive enough. We ask that you help us keep our children, students, teachers, and families safe by mandating a much more robust and comprehensive plan that is properly funded.

 


Sincerely yours,

Safe Schools Saskatchewan