After long break, Canora students back in class

On September 8, Canora students returned to their classrooms for the first time since March 19, the beginning of measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

At CJES, Rod Steciuk, principal, and the staff greeted students on their arrival and made sure they safely found their new classrooms.

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“CJES would like to welcome everyone back to a new and exciting school year,” said Steciuk.

A few blocks away at CCS, Kim Eiteneier, principal, reported that the always busy first day of school went well for students and staff.

“Students were quite excited to be back even though they had to wear masks,” said Eiteneier.  “We did plenty of discussion with the students on protocol, process, and scheduling as well trying to answer as many questions as we could.”  

Eiteneier said 15 CCS students have chosen remote learning while 270 are physically in the building for the start of the new school year. Information for CJES is unavailable at this time.

Melissa Grona, Invermay School principal, said all of the Invermay students are back in school for the new year and none have opted for remote learning.

Classes got underway with the news of new provincial funding approved for the Safe Schools Plan.

The Government of Saskatchewan has announced $51 million in approved funding for classrooms for emergent, one-time expenses associated with a safe return to school. This funding is from the over $150 million in the COVID contingency fund for education from provincial, federal and school division savings, according to a release. Of the $51 million approved, $41 million comes from provincial funding, and $10 million represents the expenditure of the remaining school division savings.

As a part of this new funding, 46 applications have been approved to provide new funding to school divisions, qualified independent schools and historical high schools.

In total, the following funding has been approved:

•           $19.1 million for sanitization, includes 191 staff;

•           $6.0 million for equipment and furniture;

•           $13.2 million for supports for immunocompromised students, includes 150 teachers and staff;

•           $9.5 million for additional distance learning capacity, includes 102 teachers and staff; and

•           $4.0 million for technology upgrades.

As a result of this new funding, a total of 443 custodial support, teachers and staff are expected to be hired. This is in addition to the more than 200 staff projected to be hired as a result of the increased funding in the 2020-21 budget.

“In order to ensure our schools are as safe as possible for students and staff, $80 million has been committed for the start of the school year,” said Gordon Wyant, deputy premier and education minister. “As a result of our combined funding increases, more than 600 new teachers and staff will be funded this school year.”

The ministry of education has allocated $10 million for PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) expenses, of which $2.3 million has been spent to date to procure six million masks for school divisions. The ministry will continue working with school divisions to determine PPE needs for the remainder of the school year. The central purchasing of PPE will continue to be done through vendors that were prequalified through a request for qualification process that was completed earlier this summer.

Typically, operating funding for school divisions is confirmed after enrollments are submitted on September 30. In recognition of the exceptional circumstances this year, the ministry of education is delaying any consideration for the redistribution of grants once actual enrollments are known until January 29. This enrollment date change will provide school divisions stability regardless of actual enrollments this fall, while minimizing any potential impact on division operating funding.

There is $64 million remaining in the COVID contingency fund for education. The next intake for school division funding applications will be on December 1, concluded the release.