A change to the Education Act in Saskatchewan was announced Monday afternoon shortly after the news that registration for children under the age of 12 to receive the pediatric COVID-19 vaccines would open the following day.
In this change to the Education Act, there is now a 50 ft protective zone around every elementary school in the province. This allows teachers, staff, parents, and students to have safe and easy access to schools without facing intimidation from sidewalk picketers and protesters. The safe is permitted to be extended up to 150 ft if the school seems it to be necessary.
"Similar to the protections provided for patients, staff, and families accessing our hospitals it is important that our children, parents, teachers, and staff are able to access schools in the province without fear of interference or intimidation," Education Minister Dustin Duncan said. "In particular it is important to ensure our children do not feel scared or threatened."
Like the safe access zones around the hospitals, this provision will expire after 2 years.
As there have been protests and interferences around schools in Saskatoon, the schools in the Holy Trinity Catholic School Division Prairie South School Division in Moose Jaw have a good working relationship with parents or individuals who may not agree with the pediatric vaccinations, says their Directors of Education Ward Strueby (Education Director for Holy Trinity) and Ryan Boughen (Education Director for Prairie South). Both directors say that they've received phone calls and letters from people who have different grievances with policies or mandates but the majority of those calls do end well and on a good level of understanding.
"Although not all parents in the community support the decisions that the school board's making or that the province is making, we've found for the most part (that) families in the community are very respectful of our schools and of their behavior around our schools... I don't foresee it (protests) being a problem for us," says Boughen. No protests or incidents have happened around any of the Prairie South schools or board offices. Boughen did add, "Should a problem arise then we have that ability to create a 50 ft safe zone."
He also said that if someone does have an issue they want to bring forward, they usually reach out to the school directly or send in a letter and the school handles it with respectful communication. He said that this tactic has been successful for the most part.
Boughen did confirm that the children's vaccination centers in Moose Jaw will not be set up in any schools within either of the two school divisions. The clinics will be set up at mass vaccination sites.
The school boards will be meeting sometime this week to discuss an enforcement plan if a protest or disturbance were to ever happen.