Premier announces additional $40M for schools reopening

Scott Moe says start date will be delayed to Sept. 8 to allow more preparation

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe. (Herald file photo)

Premier Scott Moe gave a preview of his announcement coming on Monday regarding the Safe Schools Plan in a Facebook video on Saturday. Moe previewed some upcoming funding, an increased testing capacity and a new start date for schools.

“Over the past few weeks, our government has been listening to many parents’ and teachers’ concerns about our students returning to school while we are still managing our way through the COVID-19 pandemic. As a father, I know what it means to want to take every step possible to protect my kids. As an uncle, I know my nieces and nephews, they are excited to get back to school but both them and their parents have questions about what it is going to look like,” Moe said.

On Monday, Moe and Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab will announce and provide more details on more testing capacity, information and resources for a safe return to school in September.

“That is why we will be providing an additional $40 million so that our classrooms, our students and our staff will be kept safe. There is going to be more information provided to parents and to students on or before August 26. School divisions will provide details on each individual school plan for safe operation this school year,” he explained. 

Students will now begin school a week later on Tuesday, September 8, after the Labour Day long weekend.

“We will provide teachers and school staff additional days to prepare the classrooms and the common areas for a safe return,” Moe said.

The increased testing capacity in the province will see the number rise from 3,000 to 4,000 tests per day by early September ensuring anyone who wants to be tested can be.

“We will also have a COVID testing plan developed specifically for schools with voluntary testing right in the schools for both our students  and our staff,” Moe said. 

Moe reiterated that the province has been successful with the Re-Open Saskatchewan Plan while containing the spread of COVID-19 and wants to do the same with schools next month. 

“But for now I wanted you to know that I have heard your concerns and I want you to know that we are acting by providing more information, more time, more testing capacity and more resources to ensure a safe return to school this September. Let’s all keep doing our part to control the spread of COVID-19,” Moe concluded.

NDP leader Ryan Meili responded in a press release on Saturday afternoon calling the announcement “damage control” and “too little, too late.”

“The Sask. Party is spinning its wheels,” Meili said.  

“For months we’ve pushed for a serious plan for the safe reopening of schools. They have no plan, and no clue what to do. Now Saskatchewan families are paying the price, with widespread fear and frustration as our kids return to the classroom.”

Education Critic Carla Beck noted that the government has spent months denying that any additional investment would be necessary for the safe return to school. In the release, they claimed that last week Education Minister Gord Wyant said that school divisions could apply for more funding through the provincial contingency fund, but school divisions confirmed that they had been given no means to access that money.

“While any investment is welcome at this very late stage, the dollars teased today are completely inadequate to address the needs in our classrooms as teachers and students prepare to go back to school this fall,” Beck said.  

“Even with this small investment taken into account, the Sask. Party will still be spending less per student than they were in 2016. The Sask. Party’s failure to plan is letting our parents, teachers, students and school staff down.”