The St. Paul Education board approved a recommendation by administration to use $752 thousand of federal funding for COVID related costs. At the board meeting Sept. 9, Secretary-Treasurer Jean Champagne outlined the anticipated additional expenses, such as increases to custodial time for cleaning classrooms and for personal protective equipment for staff and students.
“Some of our additional costs that were a little more difficult to project would be additional costs for additional subs. We do expect that there will be increased absenteeism because of the COVID isolation protocols but what exactly that’s going to be is difficult to predict at this time,” said Champagne.
He said the board had increased staff by two teachers and four educational assistants in response to some of the needs for remote learning.
Board Chair Heather Starosielski commended the administration for not having allocated all of the $1.088 million in federal funding immediately.
“I do appreciate that you have left us a bit of a cushion there, some contingency just in case as this evolves and we have to adapt and pivot a bit more,” said Starosielski.
Roughly $350 thousand of the federal funding remains to be allocated.
In a follow up interview after the meeting, superintendent Glen Brodziak said it was one full time teacher for New Myrnam School and 0.5 each for St. Paul Elementary and Glen Avon.
According to the guidelines for at home learning posted to the St. Paul Education website, students learning at home will receive instruction from a teacher at their regular school through a combination of virtual means and paper and pencil. For students in grades K-6, it will include at least two hours of live online teaching, also called synchronous learning. Students in grades 7-12 will be able to receive at least three hours of synchronous learning. All students will also have activities to complete independently such as watching videos and participating in message boards or via e-mail.
“It’s all over the place, so that’s why we’ve contacted them and said let’s try to set it up and do it how you feel we can be most successful,” said Brodziak.
He noted one of the challenges of remote learning is “in some of our schools of 300, 400, 500 students we had 60 at home learners. So those 60 students are dispersed throughout all the grades, … It just wasn’t possible with the staff on board to adequately take care of the at home learners.”
Brodziak said 294 out of 1855 students who responded to the division’s online survey at the beginning of September requested at home learning. “Which is really only about half of our student population.” Brodziak said he doesn’t expect to have truly accurate enrollment numbers until next week.
“With the buses not running at our First Nations, we don’t know specifically how many are choosing at home versus not coming to school because they can’t get transportation,” said Brodziak. “They had a confirmed case and they made the decision not to run buses at this point.”
Saddle Lake Cree Nation and Goodfish Lake First Nation both provide their own buses for students who attend schools off-reserve. Saddle Lake Chief Eric Shirt called for a 14-day lockdown of Saddle Lake Cree Nation on Sept. 7.
“All programs except essential services will be closed during this time,” said Shirt in a video posted to Facebook, during which he also encouraged band members to seek out testing even if they do not have symptoms. “It’s here, and we want to stop it. We want to stop the spread of it and for that we need your help,” said Shirt.