Letters to the editor – August 27, 2020

Keeping COVID-19 out of our schools

I am a retired educator who, prior to the lock-down for COVID-19, spent several hours daily volunteering at Providence Place, a care home for approximately 130 seniors in Moose Jaw. Now that the lock-down has been partially lifted and being on the list of permitted visitors, when I visit I am so impressed with the protocol that Providence Place uses to continue to keep COVID-19 out of that building.

When I arrive, I await my turn to enter the porch, where I show my ID and am buzzed into the building, where the first action of the staff person is to hold a no-contact thermometer near my forehead and to announce my temperature to me — a two-second procedure. If I show no fever, I proceed to the hygiene station where I apply sanitizer to my hands, put on a mask, and wipe off the outside of my purse with a disposable wipe that is provided.

Each day that I do this, I am so grateful that my husband is safe in this facility. On the other hand, every day of late, I am also very worried for my teaching colleagues who will be going back to work in schools with little or no protocols in place like these for keeping the virus out of our schools.

I am grateful that so many school divisions have had the moral courage to make masks mandatory for crowded places. Now it’s time they do the same for the use of no-contact thermometers in our schools.

The first school to announce the use of temperature checking is the independent Prairie Sky School in Regina. I have been envisioning similar efforts used by many other school staffs.

Imagine every school bus driver equipped with a contactless thermometer so that each student could be checked by the bus driver before climbing onto the bus and asked to remain at home if the student has a fever.

Imagine designated entry doors to school buildings, other than the doors for bus students, being similarly monitored by a teacher assistant, with a contactless thermometer, who checks the non-bus students as they enter the building and assigns students with an above-normal temperature to a waiting room until family comes to take them home.

Imagine a K-12 rural school with 250 students, of which 200 travel to school on 10 different buses. Imagine the school purchasing 15 contactless thermometers: 10 for the bus routes, three for entry doors used by non-bus students, two more as extras. These 15 thermometers are priced from $80 to $150 each, a once-only price tag between $1,200 and $2,250, yet not a huge amount for a parent council to raise at a fundraiser.

These thermometers are not error-proof, but they greatly increase the probability of stopping an infected individual from entering the building.

If it works for Grandpa and Grandma, might it not also work for the kids, and for the kids’ teachers, and for the teachers’ assistants, and the school’s secretary and custodians?

If the province or the school divisions will not plan for keeping COVID-19 out of the schools, perhaps it’s time for individual school staffs and their parents to do so.

Lynne Saas,

Moose Jaw, Sask.

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