Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe has announced his government is delaying the date students will return to classes by a few days, and that an extra $40 million will be spent on keeping students and school staff safe from COVID-19.
Moe says in a video posted on social media that he and the province’s chief medical health officer will provide more details Monday, but that he wanted people to know that he’s heard their concerns.
Moe says students will begin classes on Sept. 8, the Tuesday after Labour Day, in order to give teachers and school staff a bit more time to prepare their classrooms and common areas for a safe return.
In June, the province announced classes would start as early as Sept. 1, based on local school division calendars.
Some teachers, doctors and parents have voiced concerns over the government’s back-to-school plan, which doesn’t make masks mandatory for students, like several other provinces.
The Opposition NDP, meanwhile, has said the Saskatchewan Party government put together the worst back-to-school plan in the country.
Moe notes in the announcement that COVID-19 testing in the province will increase, and there will be a COVID testing plan specifically for schools, with “voluntary testing right in the schools” for students and staff.
“As a father, I know what it means to want to take every step possible to protect my kids,” Moe said in the video, which was posted Saturday.
“As an uncle I know my nieces and nephews, well, they’re excited to get back to school but both them and their parents have questions about what it’s going to look like.”
In response, NDP Education Critic Carla Beck noted that the government has spent months denying that any additional investment would be necessary for the safe return of kids to school.
“While any investment is welcome at this very late stage, the dollars teased today are completely inadequate to address the needs in our classrooms as teachers and students prepare to go back to school this fall,” Beck stated in a news release.
The Saskatchewan government has so far said it is leaving it up to school divisions to decide whether to make masks mandatory when classes reopen.
People have also called for reduced class sizes and better building ventilation.
“Over the past few weeks our government has been listening to many parents’ and teachers’ concerns about our students returning to school when we were still managing our way through the COVID-19 pandemic,” Moe said in the video.
“I want each of you to know that I hear you. Our government hears you.”
He said COVID-19 testing, which was increased to a testing capacity of 3,000 per day, will be increased to 4,000 per day in September.
Saskatchewan reported 25 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, bringing the total to 1,566 total cases. One additional death was reported, a person who was over 80, bringing the total number of COVID-19 deaths in the province to 21.
© The Canadian Press