Accountability report shows increase in need for intensive supports in Sask Rivers

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald New board chair Darlene Rowden chaired her first meeting for the Saskatchewan Rivers board of education on Monday. Nov. 28.

The number of Saskatchewan Rivers Public School Division students who need inclusive education and intensive needs is growing, according to a report presented at Monday’s school board meeting.

Superintendent Tom Michaud delivered the Inclusive Education Accountability Report, which outlined the work the division was doing in the area. Education Director Robert Bratvold said the division is working hard to meet those needs.

“We have many more students needing intensive supports because of the absences from school entirely,” Bratvold explained.

“We know there are lots of pieces of unfinished learning. The numbers of students who require specific inclusion and intervention plans has increased.”

As of December 2021, 1,711 Sask. Rivers students required intensive supports. By December 2022, that number had grown to 2,235 students. Some of these students use the full plan, while others use elements of it.

The number of students who do not have a full separate intervention plan, but still using elements of it, has also increased.

The Ministry of Education requires school divisions to annually report the number of students requiring intensive supports. As of December 2021, 769 students used the full plan, referred to as an Inclusion and Intervention Plan (IIP). By December 2022, 836 students used an IIP.

The students who use IIPs are making good progress, Bratvold said.

“We’re really making great headway in terms of the understanding of inclusion and how that works, why it’s important and its impact on everybody in the classroom, not just the students that has the intensive needs,” Bratvold said.

Despite the progress they are aware of the changing needs in the communities they serve.

In the division, there are currently 40 emotional support teachers, six speech language pathologists, 12 school social workers, three English as additional language teachers, one speech and language assistant and four Intensive Support consultants.

Contracted service providers or partnerships include YWCA workers, audiologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists through referral with the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) and SHA outreach workers.

Staff changes in 2022-2023 showed a half-time Speech Language Pathologist vacancy due to resignation. This was balanced by the return of one Speech Language Pathologist from maternity leave.

There was an extension of one full time equivalent speech and language assist until June, 2023. The was also an increase of two full time equivalent intensive support coaches. One full time equivalent psychologist was also hired on a temporary contract for the 2022-2023 school year.

“We’ve been able to increase some of our staff in that area, so that’s helpful, but we still have to work very hard, make the funding available for all the students, and work to meet all those needs.”

Two of three full time equivalent Mental Health Coaches are funded by one-time COVID-19 supports in 2021-2022 were retained.

There was an increase of 450 hours of contracted occupational therapy services as part of a re-entry plan for a local occupational therapist after returning from an extended leave from practice.

The report also outlined mental health supports that exist in the division.

Bratvold explained that Michaud and all of the consultants, coaches, administration have been doing great work in this area.

“It’s great work and has a fantastic group of experts who really truly understand the meaning of inclusion and the value (of it), and are so dedicated to making sure all of our students have those opportunities for success,” he said.