Safe Schools Plan: More Resources, More Information, More Time and More Testing
Today, the government announced it will be providing more resources, more information, more time and more testing to ensure a safe return to school.
“Over the past few weeks, our government has been listening to concerns about our students returning to school while we are still managing our way through the COVID-19 pandemic,” Premier Scott Moe said. “Today, we are acting by providing more information, more time, more testing and more resources to ensure a safe return to school in September.”
The province will allocate $40 million from the $200 million provincial COVID-19 contingency fund for additional costs related to ensuring the safety of students and staff through the pandemic. The $40 million in new funding for education will be allocated as follows:
- $20 million will be available to school divisions on an application basis for pandemic-related costs including staffing and sanitation supplies;
- $10 million will be available to enhance non-classroom options like distance learning to help ensure immunocompromised and medically fragile students have continuous access to learning across school divisions, available on an application basis; and
- $10 million will be allocated to the Ministry of Education to centrally procure masks, PPE and other supplies for school divisions.
This $40 million in additional funding will match and complement the $40 million school divisions realized in savings, making a total of $80 million available to school divisions for a safe return to school. The application process will be communicated with all school divisions on Tuesday, August 18.
In order to provide parents and students with information about what a return to individual schools will look like, school-specific operation plans are currently being finalized and will be posted online and communicated to parents and students no later than August 26.
School divisions have been working within the provincial guidelines and public health guidance provided through the Safe Schools Plan to implement initiatives like block scheduling, cohorting, and considerations for alternating school days. Under the new funding made available to divisions, additional staff to reduce class sizes in exceptional circumstances will be considered.
School divisions are currently preparing plans for submission to the Ministry of Education this week for considerations of altering operations of high density schools, primarily in collegiate settings, under Level 3 of the Safe Schools Plan.
Students will now be rescheduled to return to class on the Tuesday after Labour Day, September 8. Students were set to return to class between September 1 and 3.
This extra time will provide teachers and staff two to four additional days to be in the schools to get training on the new protocols, properly reconfigure classrooms, and where possible hold virtual meetings with parents to discuss the new school procedures.
The terms and conditions of the collective bargaining agreement currently held with the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation will be honoured. Instructional hours will not be extended, meaning depending on the school division, there will be two to four fewer instructional days this school year.
The province is working toward daily testing capacity of 4,000 tests by the beginning of September, and will continue to offer universal testing for anyone who wants to be tested. Regina and Saskatoon will also introduce drive-through testing sites which will require only a health card, not a referral.
All teachers and school staff are being encouraged to seek testing prior to returning to school and at frequent points throughout the school year. Priority access to testing will be established for teachers and school staff in the coming days, with referrals available through 811.
Targeted school testing is a key focus of the expanded testing plans, with plans including targeted monitoring, testing of students with parental consent, and priority testing for teachers and school staff. Participating schools will be selected based on a number of factors, such as number of students in the school and if the community is experiencing a recent surge of new cases. In school public health visits for routine childhood vaccinations will now include COVID-19 testing, where parental consent is granted.
As part of the August 26 school specific plans, parents will be provided with detailed information that includes instructions about what to do if a child tests positive, and what a classroom and school would do to follow up and protect others.