Ecole St. Mary High School vice principal Dwayne Gareau has written a letter to Education Minister Dustin Duncan expressing his frustration with Duncan's letter to school board chairs around vaccinations and extracurricular activities that was released earlier this month.
The letter was posted on Gareau’s personal Twitter account Wednesday and sent to Duncan the same day.
Gareau declined an opportunity to be interviewed and stated that the letter speaks for itself. In the letter, he expressed his frustration with Duncan's decision to prohibit certain COVID-19 protocols in school divisions.
He stated that these changes resulted in irresponsible changes to the Prince Albert Catholic Division's existing policy. The school division already had a policy requiring students to show proof of vaccination to be eligible for involvement in extracurricular activities. If students could not show proof of vaccination they were not eligible
In his letter to school boards, Duncan wrote that students should be allowed to participate, regardless of their vaccination status.
“The Saskatchewan Government has expressed that the most safe and efficient way to end this pandemic through a path of vaccination. I also believe that the safest and fastest way to end this pandemic is to be vaccinated,” Gareau wrote.
“While we wait for the day that an end to this pandemic is a reality, our school division has created a reasonable plan that encourages safe and practical ways to live with COVID.
“In consultation with our local Medical Health Officer in Prince Albert, our school division has created an extracurricular environment that thoughtfully mitigated the risk of COVID exposure for everyone involved,”
Gareau wrote that Ecole St. Mary prides itself on running extracurricular programming that provides students with meaningful involvement in voluntary activities that take place outside the classroom. However, he also wrote that any extracurricular activities should be considered a possible health risk and treated accordingly.
“As a person in leadership position role at my school, the safety of our staff and students is paramount,” Gareau wrote. “Seeing as you are in leadership position overseeing all all of the staff and students in our province, I would assume you would want to reduce health risks associated with a global pandemic in the most effective way possible.”
He explained that the decision forcefully required the school division to interrupt the current voluntary proof of vaccination procedures.
“While you are on record claiming that vaccines are effective, work and are the way out of this pandemic, you are communicating messaging in discord with this assertion when you willingly interfere with division practices intended to keep everyone as safe as possible,” he wrote.
Gareau stated that Ecole St. Mary was offering the same extracurricular programming as before the pandemic and with procedures in place they saw no reduced interest. This year there are the same number of sports teams, art clubs and music clubs with the same student population as before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We believe there has been no drop off because students felt safe, and have been told from public health, from our school and most importantly from your government that this what we should all do,” he wrote.
“I find your recent decision is irresponsible but more importantly, immoral. As someone who has spent the last 18 year in education and is heavily involved in extracurricular programming, I am disgusted by your decision to knowingly advocate and campaign for an environment that would clearly be less safe for our staff and students
“We utilized a thoughtful and carefully devised plan that was supported by the overwhelming majority of our school population and public health officials. The decision is illogical and I am asking you to re-evaluate what you are asking us to do.”
In a statement issued on Thursday the Ministry of Education said the government appreciates the time and effort teachers and school support staff give to provide extra-curricular activities for students, but also said the decision was necessary to prevent children from being excluded.
“Recently the Minister of Education directed that boards of education must not require proof of vaccination or the provision of a negative test result as a requirement for students to participate in extra-curricular activities that take place in schools,” the statement reads. “This is consistent with the public health order already in place.
“We believe this directive promotes the inclusion of as many children as possible in extra-curricular activities which are important to help build a well-rounded educational experience.”
Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald