Catholic Division happy to receive final round of COVID-19 education funding

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Last Thursday the Government of Saskatchewan announced nearly $29 million in approved funding to support schools during the pandemic. The latest funding will help school divisions and independent schools with sanitation, substitute teacher costs, procure PPE and assist schools in ensuring proper supports for students are in place for the fall of 2021.

Phase three of the targeted funding had narrow eligibility requirements surrounding substitute costs and PPE.

Some of the money was targeted to specific projects, while the rest of the funding was allocated out of what was leftover from the province’s COVID-19 contingency fund.

Unlike the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division, the Catholic Division was allotted funding for specific projects and also received some leftover funds.

School divisions are receiving $20.7 million to be used for interventions for Grade 1 students who did not attend Kindergarten in 2020-21, interventions to support Grade 1 to 3 students who are behind in their reading levels, support staff to reach out and engage with students and families that did not attend or had low attendance in 2020-21, supporting student mental health and Sanitation and PPE.

“I think at this point we were provided the opportunity to look at sanitation costs … and any kind of elements around some costs to the end of the year where they would have to make some slight adjustments for remote learning,” Prince Albert Catholic School Division director of education Lorel Trumier said.

“That is basically going to get us to the end of the year, which we are really very grateful for, and we are going to look at some different elements that we need to tend to and sanitation is certainly a big one. We have got to maintain and ensure that we have those with our students,” Trumier said.

In addition, $4.9 million from the nearly $29 million will be allocated to school divisions and independent schools to recognize previous and future purchases made directly for PPE required to maintain the safe operations of schools during the pandemic.

Phase three of the targeted funding had narrow eligibility requirements surrounding substitute costs and PPE.

The third phase of funding saw 53 applications approved for provide new funding for school divisions, qualified independent schools and historical high schools.

Phase three was in addition to the $37.5 million announced in December and the $51 million announced in September. All of that funding comes from the more than $150 million in the COVID contingency fund for education from provincial, federal and school division savings.

The Ministry of Education said that in September, Sask. Rivers received $798,330 and then a further $3,237,494 in December. The Prince Albert Catholic School Division received $699,880 in September.

The remaining funds allocation for the Catholic Division was $367,686 and the PPE allocation was $77,000 for a total March allotment of $584,155, according to information provided by the Ministry of Education. The allocation is believed to be based on the usual grant allotted at budget time, but Trumier is looking for clarity from the Ministry on how the number was decided. The usual grant is based on a number of factors, including student population.

“We are going to get some more detail for sure regarding that, we haven’t made necessarily plans as of yet. We are delighted that there will be a portion of dollars there that we can start looking to doing some planning. Because we do understand we will probably be needing to maintain a level of sanitation, PPE and some of the protocols in place to at least start the year. We are hoping that things change in the world around us as it pertains to COVID,” Trumier said.

Trumier is pleased with the funding.

“ We are very fortunate to be able to have some supplementary dollars to do this work during the pandemic in areas such as sanitation and PPE or remote learning, those kinds of things we are trying to understand what the philosophy is and the expectation around these funds so that we can insure that they are used to optimize our learning opportunities for the fall and for the remainder of the year,” she explained.

With this latest allocation, the remainder of the COVID contingency fund for education has been distributed to school divisions, independent schools and historical high schools.

“I think it is very positive overall. We always need the support for continued protective equipment,” Trumier said.