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Saskatchewan education minister says school year could get longer

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Many students across Saskatchewan are experiencing shorter school hours.

That’s happening in light of measures taken by various school divisions following the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation announcing that its members would be working to rule until a deal with the provincial government gets struck.

That means that teachers will continue to do their jobs, but won’t perform any additional volunteer services which includes lunch-time and extracurricular supervision.

Earlier this week, Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill said a loss of classroom hours was “absolutely” a concern.

“I think everybody is concerned about the quality of education. We want to make sure that kids are receiving that quality education in Saskatchewan but part of that is actually being in school,” Cockrill told reporters at the Legislature.

“We don’t want to get to a situation where we have to look at the school year being extended because of job sanctions but that’s certainly a discussion we may need to have very shortly here.”

STF president Samantha Becotte disagreed.

“I don’t have concerns about that. I mean, we have a pretty big precedent where we had COVID where school was shut down on March 13 and the rest of the school year was optional,” she told 980 CJME.

“We want to get to a deal and we want to make sure that it’s not detrimental to any learning that happens within the classroom.”

In an emailed statement to 980 CJME, Regina Public Schools (RPS) said it was aware of a “number” of parents who have requested a refund of lunchtime supervision fees. But the school division said it will respond to parents once a plan is in place and it has a better understanding of how many days without supervision there “will or have been.”

The division also said that whether or not the school year is extended depends on the Ministry of Education.

“It is completely unwarranted and premature for Regina Public to speculate on what will occur in the coming weeks and months, or on what direction we will receive on this issue,” the email read.

The division said morning pick-up times for schools with double bus runs will be rescheduled to 15 to 20 minutes later than usual.

Talking on Thursday’s Evan Bray Show, Twylla West of the Regina Catholic School Division said it’s important for each school division to have its own approaches to dealing with the disruptions instead of being given a top-down approach from the Saskatchewan School Boards Association.

“We’re just looking for the best we can do with what we have,” West said.

“We started with three goals. The first was to maintain safety of students and staff in our communities, the second was to be able to maximize instructional time and the third was to minimize disruption to families as well as we could and we know that we are not doing a great job on the third. We we hope that we’re still minimizing it as much as possible.”

The Regina Catholic School Division told parents that starting Wednesday, families would be responsible for transportation to and from school in the afternoon.

It also said that all students will be bused home during lunch.

The division is also providing a virtual option for students.

Beginning Wednesday, Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools closed schools over the lunch hour and special education buses and taxis were only available in the morning and at noon.

That division said it will communicate a plan to compensate parents after reviewing the number of missed supervision days.

For Saskatoon Public Schools students, there won’t be any bus or cab service at the end of their school day, but they said before- and after-school programs in the schools will continue to operate until further notice.

Saskatoon Public Schools gave students the choice to either return to school after lunch or to stay home in the afternoon. Students who stay home will be given take-home learning materials.

— With files from 980 CJME’s Lisa Schick



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