Province preparing alternate plans for K-12 education

The Saskatchewan Legislature is shown. © Submitted photo

Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter and Peter Lozinski, Daily Herald

The Province of Saskatchewan has assembled a Response Planning Team to work through the logistics as schools wind down in response to COVID-19 this week.

The team, which began work on Monday, March 17, consists of individuals from the Ministry of Education, Saskatchewan Teacher’s Federation, Saskatchewan School Boards Association, the Saskatchewan Association of School Business Officials and the Saskatchewan League of Educational Administrators, Directors and Superintendents.

“I have every confidence in our partners in education that they will make the best possible recommendations as we transition students out of Saskatchewan Prekindergarten to Grade 12 classrooms,” Deputy Premier and Education Minister Gordon Wyant said.

“The Government of Saskatchewan is committed to supporting our students and staff in these uncertain times.”

Planning is underway to ensure students continue to have supplementary learning through distance opportunities and take-home resource kits; as well as logistics to ensure backroom functions such as staff assignments and payroll.

Additional information will be provided as the Response Planning Team’s work continues. The next meeting was held in the morning.

Chris Clement director of communications for the Saskatchewan Public Safety Ministry

Rob Currie, deputy minister of education said the team is likely to release something “within the next few days … that would support ongoing learning beyond the end of this week.”

He said that hasn’t been finalized but he’s confident the group will come up with a plan to ensure that ongoing learning takes place.

The group will look at other factors as well, such as support for lower-income or vulnerable families.

“This is an ongoing conversation to determine what supports could be provided whether they be individual or maybe small groups, whether they be in homes that children will be able to continue their learning or obtain support for one another in terms of ongoing daily need,” Currie said.

 “We are looking at providing a response for support for over 180,000 students in our province and we want to ensure that the safety, the wellbeing, of each and every one of those children here throughout the province. We are looking for methodologies and mechanisms that can be reasonably assembled quickly so that we can attend and support our students.”

Currie said what “indefinite” means in terms of indefinite closure hasn’t been determined yet.

“We just a little bit more time so right now I would suggest that the families remain with the existing programs that they have already registered for whether that be in school or whether that would have been with a home-based educator,” Currie said.

“They would remain there and be supported by that entity going forward,”

Currie also stressed that teachers and staff members will continue to be paid. That includes a way for teachers to work beyond Thursday, which is part of the response team’s initiative. School division grant allocations will continue, he said.

He added that the response team is also looking at ways to help Grade 12 students who want to improve their marks.

This week’s announcement of an indefinite school closure meant that, after Thursday, all PreK-12 schools would be closed indefinitely. Marks would be based on what they currently are, and all students would progress to the next grade level.

The province said it would be working with postsecondary institutions to ensure doors remained open for Saskatchewan students who are currently in Grade 12.