December 2020: A Note From Tony

Hello Prairie South Friends,

I hope this finds you and your families well.  It’s an understatement to say that it has been a challenging fall and although we are doing a great job of taking care of students, families and each other, I know that many of you are anxious about the days and weeks to come.  I am too.

In comparison with the rest of the province, we continue to do really well in terms of positive COVID cases in our schools.  To date we have had 23 positive cases in either staff or students where contact tracing at school has been necessary.  In most cases, the contact tracing process has identified several students or staff who were in close enough proximity that it is necessary for them to self isolate, but to this point we have not had anyone who is a close contact at school test COVID positive later. Overall, we have only 2 cases where Public Health believes transmission happened at school; both of these were cases where someone was unmasked and later turned out to be contagious.  While this is 2 too many, it is a very small number considering the interactions that have happened between 750 school-level staff and 6500 students in the first 3 months of the school year and I am grateful for that.

The success we have had is a direct result of the commitment and hard work of Prairie South staff.  I understand that the additional cleaning routines, mask rules, and restrictions on staff and student movement have made an already complex job even more difficult for staff in schools.  Our attention to these things, and our willingness to sacrifice some of the things we love about school have kept people safe in our homes and the homes of our students.  Thank you for this.  I’d encourage each of you to speak with pride about the work we are doing together.  The resilience of staff in the education sector is the only thing that is keeping the economy in Saskatchewan afloat right now, as parents are able to be in the workforce while kids are at school.  While this isn’t the mandate of the public school system, it is something that each of you should be proud of, and that we should collectively be pointing out to provincial decision-makers.  Every person in Saskatchewan who benefits from the economy owes each of you a thank you.

I had the opportunity to visit with about 75 staff members last week over Zoom and was able to answer some questions about our COVID response for them.  If you have questions and would like to set up a Zoom visit with the staff in your school or the kids in your classroom, please talk with your principal about setting this up with me.  I get a bunch of things out of this work – I get to see how you are doing, which is important to me.  I get to provide factual information when there is other (less factual) information out there, which is good for all of us.  Most importantly, I get to interact with people, which is something I have really missed since March.  It isn’t the same as being in the room with you, but it’s the next best thing!

Many will have seen in the news that several other school divisions in the province have had to adjust operations between now and the middle of January.  I’m really happy that we aren’t in a situation where this is necessary for us.  Our Public Health partners have confirmed that there is no need to move from our current model, and this will allow us to proceed as we have been over the last several months.  As individual communities experience an increase in cases, we may need to do some adjusting, but at this point we are looking forward to a very well-deserved holiday and a return to school as planned in January.

Please take care of yourselves and stay safe during the last few school days of 2020 and over the holiday break.  Have a peaceful and safe holiday.

See you soon,

Tony

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