On Tuesday, the Government of Saskatchewan officially announced a one-year Interim Provincial Education Plan, which has been developed to focus on supporting Saskatchewan schools as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We're pleased to provide school divisions with nearly $21 million in additional funding for students returning to school this fall," Education Minister Dustin Duncan said in a release.
"Our appreciation goes out to our teachers, education support staff and families whose hard work and creativity supported these students throughout the past year."
The Interim Provincial Education Plan will focus on three key priorities, including additional reading supports for grade 1 to 5 students.
Reading data will be collected from students in Grades 1 to 5. This will allow teachers to create specialized reading plans where needed that meet students at their individual skill levels.
The government says supportive learning opportunities for students whose education may have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic is also a priority. High school students will be able to obtain credits through a variety of educational avenues, such as classes offered out of grade order, special project credits and online classes.
The third priority is mental health supports for students and staff as they return from a challenging year. This includes nearly $600,000, provided in the 2021-22 Budget, to support initiatives related to bullying prevention and promotion of positive mental health and student safety.
It also encompasses nearly $500,000 committed by the Government of Saskatchewan for Mental Health First Aid training to school divisions.
Locally the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division board of education trustees voiced their support for the plan when they were updated on it in February.
According to the division, local survey responses from staff and partners indicate that similar priorities will emerge in the division’s strategic plan, which is also a work in progress. The division strategic plan is also expected to be ready for implementation in the fall of 2021.
The process on developing the plan started when then-Minister of Education Gord Wyant invited 20 organizations to nominate representatives for an initial two-year term with a possibility of an extension. The representatives are from the Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 12 sector, Indigenous organizations, post-secondary institutions, business and industry and both French and English schools.
The plan was developed by the Provincial Education Council who first met in December, 2020 to discuss the development, implementation and governance of Saskatchewan's next decade of learning.
The one-year interim plan will be in place as the 10-year plan is completed.
The draft interim priority plans will outline education policy at the provincial level, not at the classroom or school level, and will be implemented for the 2021-2022 school year. The interim plans are set to guide the system for the next year while the next PEP is completed.
The provincial-level plan was originally expected to be released in June 2021.
Using these three priorities, school divisions and participating First Nations education authorities will build their own plans in order to meet the unique needs of their students and schools.
Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald