Sask. Rivers and Catholic Division see increases in provincial COVID-19 support funding

The Sask Rivers Education Centre/ Daily Herald File Photo

Last Thursday the Government of Saskatchewan announced that they had approved $37.5 million in funding for schools. This funding was the second intake for emergent, one-time expenses associated with keeping staff and students safe in schools because of COVID-19. 

In Prince Albert the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division received $3,237,494 and the Prince Albert Catholic School Division received $1,933,375, according to information provided by the Ministry of Education.

Both divisions were pleased to receive the funding to support students.

“I just know that we really couldn’t support the kinds of endeavors that come with the different parts of this. We do have additional sanitation costs and they are real and important to attend to, so you can’t do it without it,” Catholic Division director of education Lorel Trumier said.

Saskatchewan Rivers’ director of education acknowledged support from both the provincial and federal governments.

“These are real costs that we would not have had without COVID and it’s appreciated that the ministry recognizes that. And it is good use of funds because it is going to support kids and their learning,” Bratvold said.

As a part of this second round of funding, 51 applications were approved to provide new funding to school divisions, qualified independent schools and historical high schools.

This is in addition to the $51 million in funding that was announced in September in which both Sask. Rivers and the Prince Albert Catholic division also received funding. In that announcement Saskatchewan Rivers received $798,330 and the Catholic Division received $699,880.

According to Bratvold, the Ministry was attempting to keep the money provided equal among the divisions and other organizations.

“If folks got a lot the first time around than they are likely not to get as much this time around so they are trying to be as equitable as they can so we anticipated getting substantial funding for things we really need so it was good,” he explained.

The funding wasn’t available in time for the move to online learning in Saskatchewan Rivers and the Catholic Division announced late last week, which is in effect until the middle of January.

The provincial funding is from the over $150 million in the COVID contingency fund for education from provincial, federal and school division savings.

Bratvold explained that items approved for funding included air purification systems and a large order of Chromebooks that they hope to receive by January. There was also funding approved for hardware such as laptops, furniture and equipment for the Sask. Rivers Distance Learning Centre. The government also funded staff for the learning centre but not administration, which was confusing to Bratvold.

 “That’s a puzzling thing for me, I’m not going to complain, you absolutely need that leadership kind of position if you are going to have 11 or 12 teachers that are going to work together. But they are focused on supporting kids and learning and addressing outcomes,” he explained

He explained that the division would continue to fund the leadership positions in the learning center.

In the Catholic Division, funding will be going to items such as sanitization and support for remote learning for immunocompromised students, Trumier said.

“That is huge when we can provide an online remote learning program in our system. We have never operated one and this year we are,” Trumier said.

 “I think those are all pieces that are really important about managing in a year of COVID,” she added.

The following funding has been approved provincially in this intake: $5.2 million for sanitization (includes 107 additional staff),  $7.2 million for equipment and furniture, including audio amplification systems to help students hear when their teachers are wearing masks, $21 million for remote learning (includes 279 teachers and staff, which is in addition to the 252 staff approved in September), $2.6 million for technology upgrades, including the purchase of additional computers and $1.5 million for other costs including additional supervision requirements and mental health and community liaison supports.

Other divisions in the region receiving funding included the North East School Division (NESD), which serves Melfort, Nipawin, Tisdale and area received $1,567,003. As well the Northeast Christian Academy, a private school in Melfort received $6,978.

The Northern Lights School Division, which serves areas such as La Loche, received $461,000.

The Conseil des ecoles fransaskoise, which also has a school in Prince Albert, received $1,089,148 in funding provincially.

The province announced that to maintain funding stability for the education sector, school division operating grants will not be adjusted based on actual enrolments for the 2020-21 school year.  

This means that school divisions and independent schools will continue to receive funding based on their projected enrolments and will not see a decrease to their funding. 
There is currently $26 million remaining in the COVID contingency fund for education. 

The next intake for school division funding applications will be on March 1, 2021.