As another round of remote learning in most Regina schools comes to an end, an internal email from the public school division’s education director alleges statistics that guide decision-making with regards to COVID-19 aren’t being regularly shared.
Global News obtained a copy of the email from Regina Public Schools education director Greg Enion sent Wednesday.
Enion’s Wednesday email, which starts out by noting the continued prevalence of the coronavirus in the city, notes “the return to school may seem premature based on data that we all see on media and social media,” but goes on to say that’s not what the division relied on when making the decision to transition its students back into its buildings. It goes on to say that medical professionals “recommended the move back to class on Monday” and that the board supports the decision.
Regina Public Schools’ supervisor of communication, Terry Lazarou, clarified in a followup statement to Global News that the decision was ultimately made by the division’s senior administration.
Regular updates don't include numbers
In the email, Enion says he is quoting local medical health officers who told the division that while there have been “some exposures within the school community and aside from “very few instances, these have not resulted in ongoing transmission.”
According to Enion’s email, he gets regular updates on the COVID-19 situation in schools several times per week.
“Many commenters on news and social media have requested to ‘see the data.’ I can respect that. However, we don’t create, or own, that data. Medical and Population Health experts we respect do. We are disappointed and frustrated that this data is not regularly shared with the public, or even with us.”
The public school division did not specifically answer Global News’ questions about what data is not being shared and who is withholding it.
Global News has also asked the Saskatchewan Health Authority but has not yet received a response.
In the provincial legislature Friday, Carla Beck, the NDP education critic, chastised the government for downloading decision-making around whether to keep students’ learning in their school buildings onto the individual divisions.
“This government has forced them to make difficult decisions without the necessary data,” Beck said.
Saskatchewan Education Minister Dustin Duncan said in the recent months since his appointment to his post, he has heard from individual school divisions.
“Not one has asked me to make the decision,” Duncan said.
'They've been learning at home'
Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation president Patrick Maze says Regina Public Schools teachers have been reaching out since receiving the email, including several who contacted him directly.
There are more COVID-19 cases in Regina now, and more daily new cases reported in the city, than when the move to this round of remote learning was made at the end of March, Maze pointed out.
“To be coming out of it now doesn’t make a lot of sense,” he said.
“They’re pointing in part to lower numbers in school-age children but of course numbers should be lower in school-age children because they’ve been learning at home,” Maze continued, referencing a section of Enion’s email talking about low transmission in school settings.
At the end of Enion’s correspondence, he adds “a word about communication,” saying “there is considerable misinformation in social media and incomplete information on news media.”
“Please also keep in mind that we do have an Administrative Procedure 118 relating to Online Communication and Interaction/Social Media. Please familiarize yourselves with it,” he writes.
He also says his office will directly share critical information while operational information may come from supervisors, principals, the division’s website or social media.
“In these situations where the health of their employee group is a cause for concern, it comes across as kind of heavy-handed,” Maze told Global News. “It’s not acknowledging that employees have all kinds of fears going on and it might be better to just hit that straight up.”