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Sask. Government responds to ongoing concerns of educators in the province

In response to the ongoing Saskatchewan Teacher’s Federation (STF) strike action, the Government of Saskatchewan has made several announcements regarding a revision of its educational policies in the province
Scott Moe addresses the crowd during a Nov. 5, 2023 Saskatchewan Party event.

In response to the ongoing Saskatchewan Teacher’s Federation (STF) strike action, the Government of Saskatchewan has made several announcements regarding its revised education policies as it continues to work toward a lasting solution.

Additional classroom space

To address one of the leading concerns brought up by educators in the province, the Government of Saskatchewan has announced funding for an additional 45 relocatable classrooms in areas of high population growth.

This extra space is made possible with an added $32 million in funding. To date, the government has spent a total of $48 million including this recent figure, thereby providing 23 existing and 45 proposed relocatable classrooms for the 2024 – 2025 academic year.

With a focus on population growth areas, most of this funding has been allocated to Regina and Saskatoon, followed by smaller communities including Humboldt, Lloydminster, Lumsden, Pilot Butte, Warman, and Weyburn.

“Our government is committed to working with our educational partners to help address the concerns around class size that we are seeing in some of our schools,” stated Jeremy Cockrill, the province’s education minister.

New growth formula

Much of this additional student growth is the result of recent immigration to the province, which has seen new students enter the education system throughout the year.

“Our schools are welcoming more and more students,” Cockrill acknowledged.

“We know that enrolment growth has been trending upward for the past number of years and we continue to work with school boards to fund enrolment increases to support students, teachers and staff in the classroom.”

To address this in-year growth, the government established a threshold to determine eligibility for post-September enrolment growth funding. This helps ensure those school divisions with the largest amount of realized growth receive more funding.

To create the formula, the Ministry of Education has been working with a committee of partners from within the education sector, but further details have not been provided.

In the new formula, actual student growth will be assessed from Oct. 1 to Jan. 31 each year, and growth trends are to be projected into the following spring months. Estimating the total growth at the end of January lines up with the start of semester two and allows each school division to plan more effectively.

Specialized Support Classroom Pilot

Another issue brought forward by educators is students with specialized learning needs and the hiring of trained support staff to work closely with those students.

Although eight schools in the province have been selected to implement the Specialized Support Classroom Pilot, no Moose Jaw-based schools have been selected for the pilot project yet.

Specialized classrooms will be set aside for the project with a capacity of around 15 students each. The goal, according to the government, is to help students practice self-regulation skills and to address the impact made by disruptions in the student’s home classroom.

To run the program, at least one teacher and two educational assistants are required. This can include additional support staff such as psychologists and counsellors.

A leading concern among critics of the Sask. Party government is regarding the number of available trained staff in the province. The required staff to run the pilot program may not be currently available in some areas, they argue.

Teacher Innovation Fund

For Teacher and Education Staff Appreciation Week, which fell on Feb. 11 - 17 this year, the government has announced a re-affirmation of its commitment to listening to and collaborating with educators in the province.

“I want to thank the incredibly hard-working teachers and educational staff within the province,” Cockrill said in a Feb. 12 statement.

“I am excited to see the many great ideas being submitted by teachers seeking to improve the classroom experience.”

These projects are selected on their ability to support better student and teacher experiences in the classroom, and projects range from innovative approaches to mental health to developing STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) courses to innovative strategies for teaching. 

The new Teacher Innovation and Support Fund was announced in January of this year and provides $2.5 million in funding. Each school can apply for up to $75,000 to develop these projects once selected.

So far, nine teacher-led solutions have been selected for immediate funding through the project, with these applications receiving a total of $410,649.

The next round of selections will be awarded in the weeks to come, and the pilot will continue until the end of the 2024 – 2025 academic year.

According to the Government of Saskatchewan, these measures come as part of its commitment to supporting students, teachers, and classrooms, and are part of a total previous investment of $47 million for enrolment, classroom complexity, and to hire more educational assistants. These measures add to an investment of over $300 million to support learning, which was announced earlier this year.

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