Premier Scott Moe has outlined new measures in Saskatchewan’s updated return-to-school plan.
In a social media update on August 15th, Moe announced $40 million in funding to help school divisions prepare for the new reopening date of September 8th.
Moe says delaying the start date for schools will help give teachers more time to learn the protocols, ensure classrooms are configured properly and hold meetings with parents virtually to discuss the return to classrooms.
The money comes from the $200 million provincial COVID-19 contingency fund and will be split three ways. Half of the 40 million will go towards school division’s staffing and sanitization costs. School divisions will have to apply for the funding.
Funds can be used to hire additional staff to reduce classroom sizes, but Moe says only in exceptional circumstances.
An additional $10 million is available for non-classroom options, such as distance learning, for immunocompromised and medically fragile students. Another $10 million is set aside for Ministry of Education to buy masks, personal protective equipment and other supplies.
Moe also announced that the province will be increasing testing in September. The province is looking to have 4,000 tests done per day by the beginning of the month.
“We know that key to our success in the fight against COVID in Saskatchewan has been very aggressive testing and subsequent contact tracing. As we moved through the stages of the Re-open Saskatchewan Plan we have increased testing. We have opened it up to anyone who wanted to test. Increasing testing capacity has been vital in our Re-open Saskatchewan Plan.”
He also outlined a specific process for testing in schools. Students with parental consent will be able to take part in randomized voluntary testing at their school. Schools will be selected based on factors such as student population and an outbreak or surge in cases in the community.
Routine childhood vaccination will also have the option to test for COVID-19 if parental consent is given.
Priority testing will be given to teachers and school staff in the coming days and finalized school-specific plans are expected to be put up online by August 26th.