Report from the Legislature August 20, 2020

Aug 20, 2020
As summer starts to wind down, students, teachers and school staff are preparing to get back to the classroom. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has ensured that the coming school year will be unlike any other. The Government of Saskatchewan, alongside our Chief Medical Health Officer and education officials, is focused on providing more information, more time, more testing and more resources to ensure a safe return to school in September.

As summer starts to wind down, students, teachers and school staff are preparing to get back to the classroom. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has ensured that the coming school year will be unlike any other. The Government of Saskatchewan, alongside our Chief Medical Health Officer and education officials, is focused on providing more information, more time, more testing and more resources to ensure a safe return to school in September.

Recently, it was announced that an additional $40 million will match and complement $40 million that school divisions have realized in savings, making for a total of $80 million available to divisions for a safe return to school. This funding will cover pandemic-related costs such as staffing and sanitation supplies, non-classroom options like distance learning to help ensure immunocompromised and medically fragile students, as well as the procurement of masks, PPE and other supplies.

School-specific operation plans are being finalized, posted online and communicated to parents and students. Working within provincial guidelines and public health guidance provided in the Safe Schools Plan, school divisions are implementing initiatives like block scheduling, cohorting, and considerations for alternating school days. Additional staff to reduce class sizes in exceptional circumstances will also be considered.

Students will not be returning to the classroom until Tuesday, September 8. This extra time will provide an opportunity for teachers and staff to return to schools across the province to get training on new protocols, properly reconfigure classrooms and, where possible, hold virtual meetings with parents to discuss new procedures.

The province is also working toward daily testing capacity of 4,000 tests and will continue to offer universal testing for anyone who wants it. Regina and Saskatoon will be introducing drive-thru 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, with referrals available through 811.

Targeted school testing is a key focus of expanded testing plans which include 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 school specific plans, parents will receive 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.

While there is uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, Saskatchewan’s Safe Schools Plan takes the necessary steps to ensure students, teachers and school staff can return to the classroom safely. You can learn more at Saskatchewan.ca. And as always, if you have questions or concerns, please contact my constituency office.