Concern for teacher safety prompts home schooling
- Brendan Mayer | September 25, 2020
Concerns about the safety of Saskatchewan teachers during the COVID-19 pandemic have inspired an Indigenous single mother to homeschool her daughter. Tanya Jackson says she will be homeschooling her five-year-old daughter Luci until the coronavirus is under control.
“I really wanted to keep the teachers safe,” Jackson said. “Having one less kid to worry about helps keep them safe. My daughter is always trying to hug people that she sees. I'm only going to assume other kids want to do that. A vaccination would help me feel better about it.”
Jackson lives in Prince Albert and her parents are from Stony Rapids and La Ronge. She has a casual position and says she would be looking for a full-time job if she was sending her daughter to school for kindergarten.
“I wanted to spend more time with my kid,” Jackson said. “I don't feel that the Saskatchewan government did enough to protect the students or the teachers. I think there could have been things done to help keep everyone safe like reducing class sizes.”
Multiple new groups have recently been created on Facebook to help parents in the province who are homeschooling.
“I joined a couple of the Facebook groups,” Jackson said. “They were a great resource to connect with. A lot of parents are very anxious. We're doing what we can to stay safe.”
While school divisions have launched online learning options, Jackson says she didn’t care for online school when she was a student.
“If I had to do it with my daughter, I think she would adapt to it. It's a tough call because a lot of kids have learning issues.”
Saskatchewan Rivers School Division director of education Robert Bratvold said some parents are concerned about the safety of their children.
“They are willing to make that commitment to a distance learning program. We have had a large group of families who are interested in this. They don’t want their children to miss out on their education. Sometimes the child might have medical conditions.”
The federal government is providing $112 million for secondary and elementary schools on reserves and $74.9 million for Saskatchewan’s 27 school divisions and the province has previously committed $40 million from the COVID-19 contingency fund for education support. The money is being used for pandemic-related costs including staffing and supplies.
There is no indication yet if any of that money will go toward supporting home schooling.
Bratvold said on September 1 that the division hadn’t yet heard how the roughly $75 million will be dispersed.
School divisions also had an additional $40 million in savings allocated for schools during the pandemic.
“We have enough cleaning supplies, masks and PPE,” Bratvold said. “We’ve budgeted for the reasonable purchasing of those over the course of the year. I think the bigger challenge is staffing requirements. It’s a much more difficult adjustment to fund different needs related to COVID-19.”
The Ministry of Education acquired six million disposable masks this summer for the school divisions. Face shields have also been provided for staff members. Each school division in the province is choosing which students will be required to wear masks at their schools.
“I think the Ministry of Education and the provincial government have done some great things in terms of communication,” Bratvold added. “The ministry has had regular conversations with school divisions. I think they have done a really good job of being open and relying on medical evidence. We are fully prepared for students to come back. “Teachers are generally excited to be back. They want to make sure things are safe.”