School Divisons awaiting direction for rapid tests

In late March, the Government of Saskatchewan announced that 100,000 rapid tests were being deployed to Saskatchewan schools.

The plan was that testing could begin right away, but according to Quinton Robertson, the director of education with the Good Spirit School Division, said eventhough they had received the rapid tests, like many school divisions, they are waiting on a plan on how to use the tests safely and effectively.

"We are awaiting direction from our local medical health officer and from the province around the utilization of these resources," he said. "I know they are in the development of selecting individuals that would be administering the assessment and also around the parental permission aspect. We have done nothing, and I am fairly certain that most school divisions are in the same position."

"We have to make sure that we are following a provincial mandate from the Cheif Medical Officer and the Local Medical Health Officer; we are not in the business of administering COVID tests," added Robertson.

CUPE has now called on the province to 'stop misleading the people of Saskatchewan and immediately step up its efforts to make schools safe.' after outbreaks in 82 schools of the COVID-19 variants have spread across Saskatchewan.

"Education workers have felt ignored and abandoned from the very beginning of this government's failed attempt to keep our schools safe, and with these multiple outbreaks, the situation has become completely intolerable," said Rob Westfield, an education support worker and chair of CUPE Saskatchewan's Education Workers' Steering Committee via a media release. "The province has once again abandoned its responsibility and has left school divisions struggling to create their own plans for rapid testing."

"Schools have to create and distribute permission forms for parents to sign, hire qualified personnel to administer the tests and create a space to do so. This takes time, and in the meantime, our education workers are forced to put their lives at risk because they were left out of the phase one vaccinations," added Westfield. "The government is asking us to go into unsafe schools without a vaccination."

President of CUPE Saskatchewan Judy Henley said that they want to see education workers get vaccinated to 'ensure the that both students and staff are safe during this recent surge in cases.'

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