With the first month of 2021-22 school year coming to a close, there is much to celebrate.

For the most part students in the West Central region have enjoyed, when compared to 2020 and 2021, a normal school year. Sports are being played, clubs meeting, and in-class learning is occurring.

Despite all the good news, there is a worrying statistic threatening it all. In the first month of school the division has seen as many COVID-19 cases in one month as they did all of the last school year.

“I'm not sure how anybody can be anything but extremely concerned when we've had 150% of the total of all of last year within the first, less than 20 days of school this year,” Sun West Director of Education Randy Emmerson shared on a call.

During the 2020-21 school year, the Division recorded 12 incidents of COVID-19 over 10 months. In September of 2021 they had recorded 19.

No part of the division appears to have gone unscathed according to Mr. Emmerson. From the division’s rural schools, to its urban schools. COVID-19 in the Sun West School Division has appeared everywhere at one point or another.

“We’ve had from Kindergarten to Grade 12 students confirmed. So, any of the suggestions that our younger children are less likely to be impacted, I think that the evidence that we have to work with, and the schools that we’ve shared that information with, and communities, COVID-19 is now affecting everybody.”

Despite the number of cases, Mr. Emmerson believes the Division is handling the situation well thanks to the help of local health officials. The number of cases has just meant that they’ve had to adapt the ‘Safe Schools Policy’ as needed.

“We like to think of these as predictable situations. The schools are part of our communities and our communities have many individuals that have COVID-19,” Mr. Emmerson said. “We have in place our safe schools plan and we've adjusted it using the information and recommendations from our local medical health officials. They provide information related to the risk to the school and the students and staff, and community. So we've adjusted according to those recommendations.”

While the school division continues to deal with cases as they’re detected, its important to look at Elizabeth Middle School if the problem continues to grow. Most would agree that keeping students learning in class is the best course forward. The best chance they have of that continuing uninterrupted is if we all pitch in a little.

Ever the educator, on touching on the thorny subject of vaccines and mask mandates, Mr. Emmerson pointed to a quote from former U.S. Senate Chaplain Peter Marshall.

“May freedom be seen, not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right,” Mr. Emmerson read. “Given the circumstances that we’re in, I think that as has clearly been expressed, the two things we can do is wear a mask and get the vaccine.”