Province provides update on return to school plan

Gord Wyant/ Herald File Photo

Regional back-to-school plans are now available online as school divisions across the province finanalized their plans on on Wednesday.

Those plans will also be shared with parents by the end of Wednesday, Aug. 26, according to a Government of Saskatchewan news release.

Copies of each specific school’s plan will be made available through their respective school division websites. The Prince Albert Roman Catholic School Division and Saskatchewan Rivers School Division have been updating their plans frequently.
Although all school division had to have plans in place by Wednesday, the provincial government said things could be updated or refined before students return on Sept. 8.

Additional information about testing, including reporting and notification, will be distributed to parents on Thursday according.
The Government of Canada also announced today that school divisions across the province will have access to additional funding. Saskatchewan is set to receive $74.9 million as a result of a new spending commitment by the Government of Canada.
This funding will be added to the $40 million in new education funding already committed by the province from the COVID contingency fund, and is in addition to the $40 million in funds available through school division savings.

While application intakes will occur throughout the school year, the first intake closes end of day on Thursday.
“As we work with our sector partners to ensure a safe return to school, we know that there will be increased costs associated with staffing, preparation and supplies,” Education Minister Gord Wyant said.

“With the federal government’s contribution, there is now up to $150 million available to our education sector for costs associated with a safe return to school.”
As announced earlier this summer, the Ministry of Education centrally procured six million masks to distribute to school divisions to make available on a daily and ongoing basis.

The first shipment has been delivered to all 27school divisions and is in addition to full-face shields the province obtained which will be made available for all staff.

They explained that The second shipment of masks is set to leave the supplier today and will be delivered to school divisions during the first week of school.
They added that The Government of Saskatchewan continues to monitor the transmission of COVID-19 in the province and updates will be made to the Safe Schools Plan as necessary based on the advice of the Chief Medical Health Officer.

NDP wants to sees federal funds go to class size

NDP Education Critic Carla Beck welcomed the  federal announcement  which they claimed bailed out the Sask. Party for their refusal to commit adequate funding to a safe school reopening and called on the Saskatchewan Party government to rapidly allocate that funding to making class sizes smaller in order to ensure a safe return to schools and minimize the risk of outbreaks.

“Despite having months to get the return-to-school plan right, Scott Moe and Gord Wyant kept insisting that no additional funding would be necessary to make schools safer for our kids during a pandemic – to the extent that they waited until far too late to even allocate funding from their own contingency fund. Despite the concerns raised by families, educators, and medical professionals, they did nothing to address class size as crucial weeks passed,” Beck said in a release.

“Today, Education Minister Gord Wyant has finally acknowledged that COVID-19 means additional costs for schools. He has been handed a lifeline for his failed back to school plan, but the clock is ticking – he must not let Saskatchewan families down again.”

Saskatchewan will receive $74.9 million –almost double the $40 million that the Premier allocated from the $200 million contingency fund only  which they claim came after extensive public outrage forced his hand.

“The Premier and Education Minister’s slow-mo, status-quo approach has left parents feeling betrayed, stressed and frustrated. Our classrooms are too crowded now because they were too crowded before,” she said.

“School divisions still aren’t sure what, if any, additional funding they will receive, or if the government will in fact claw back funding at the end of September if enrolment declines due to COVID-19. We can’t be satisfied with the status quo. We must demand better, and that means a real plan to put this additional federal funding to work where it counts.”

Premier Scott Moe has defended the government’s plan, saying it’s built to be adaptable during a highly volatile situation.

“We obviously do our own research in the province, but we work with Saskatchewan experts as well as experts throughout Canada,” Moe told reporters when releasing the education plan. “When we look at expert consensus statements, there’s nothing that has zero risk.”