Sask. $40M school fund helps pay for staffing, sanitization; boosts testing
REGINA -- The Saskatchewan government has outlined a number of new measures to help make schools safe for kids this fall after hearing concerns from parents and teachers.
Premier Scott Moe said on Monday the $40 million in funding will help school divisions pay for costs caused by the pandemic.
He said the province acted on the changes after hearing concerns.
“Today, we are acting by providing more information, more time, more testing and more resources to ensure a safe return to school in September,” Moe said in a news release.
The $40 million in funds will be divided into three parts.
The first $20 million will go to school divisions to help pay for staffing and sanitization costs. School divisions will have to apply for the funding.
The province said the funds could be used to hire additional staff to reduce class sizes, but only in exceptional circumstances.
An additional $10 million will allow schools to enhance non-classroom options, the province said. This can be used for distance learning, providing students with high medical needs a way to continue learning.
Further, another $10 million will be spent on masks and other supplies for school divisions.
Applications for funds begin on Tuesday. The province said this funding matches the $40 million that school divisions already saved.
On top of new dollars, the province will provide staff, parents and children with an idea of what schools will look like when they open.
School operation plans are being finalized and will be ready by Aug. 26, the province said.
It said schools have already implemented a number of measures to ensure safety, like block scheduling, co-horting and alternating school days.
Some high schools are considering altering their operations as if they are in a Level 3 scenario, the province said.
The province is pushing the school start date to Sept. 8. Students were originally supposed to start between Sept. 1 and 3.
The province said the additional time lets teachers and staff get acquainted with the new system.
It said the terms and conditions of the current collective bargaining agreement will be honoured. Instructional hours won’t be extended, meaning there will be two to four fewer teaching days this school year.
The province said it’s looking to do 4,000 tests per day by the beginning of September.
The province will target schools as it expands testing. It will provide monitoring and testing for students if they have parental consent.
Routine childhood vaccinations in school will now include COVID-19 testing, as long as parental consent is granted.
As well, teachers and staff will be given priority for testing.
Parents will be provided with detailed information that includes instructions about what to do if a child tests positive.
As well, they will be told what schools and classrooms are doing to protect others.
There will be drive-through testing sites in Regina and Saskatoon, the province said. Those that want to participate only need to provide their health card.
Testing will still be available to anyone who wants it.