The provincial government will be field testing an idea to meet teacher demands for help when it comes to dealing with behaviour and differential learning challenges in the classroom. The province is embarking on a pilot project involving eight urban school divisions to set up specialized support classrooms with a $3.6 million investment 

The divisions serve public and Catholic schools in and around North Battleford, Prince Albert, Regina and Saskatoon. The 18-month pilot is slated to begin this February. 

"We have heard from Saskatchewan teachers that they need to spend more of their time teaching rather than managing disruptive behaviour," Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill said in a government release. "This pilot aims to support students to continue their studies uninterrupted but also assists students who need targeted interventions in the short-term." 

The release states the pilot will provide a classroom with specialized supports to help students practice self-regulation skills while also addressing the impacts of disruptions in the home classroom. The specialized support classroom setting will be staffed by at least one teacher and two educational assistants. The space will have capacity for 15 students and may use other supports from staff as needed, like psychologists and counsellors.   

"Light of Christ Catholic Schools is excited to be selected as one of the eight school divisions to participate in this pilot," Board Chair Glen Gantefoer said. "We are pleased to announce that St. Mary School will be our chosen site for the pilot in our division. We look forward to working with the Ministry of Education during this pilot as we discover a new support mechanism that will result in a positive experience for students and staff."   

The Ministry of Education says it will work closely with the participating schools and divisions, all of which are urban, to meet students' needs in the local context. Parents of children participating in the pilot program will be part of the consultation. 

"We are excited to be part of the specialized support classroom project and appreciate the additional resources that will be provided to the school division to implement this initiative," Saskatoon Public Schools Board Chair Kim Stranden said. "Our staff is looking forward to working collaboratively with the Ministry of Education to develop a plan that supports our students. We know this project will have a positive impact on teaching and learning in one of our elementary schools. We are working with our team at Saskatoon Public to determine which elementary school will be part of this pilot." 

Meanwhile, the Opposition NDP shared concerns about the limited scope of the project in its release by Education Critic Matt Love. 

“This new pilot program will only target eight urban classrooms without any additional classroom supports for any rural students and schools. This will affect less than 1% of students in Saskatchewan. Scott Moe just doesn’t understand how big this problem is. All students and educators, regardless of whether they live in rural or urban, deserve a government that is dedicated to ensuring their success and delivering real results. After ten years of funding cuts, it’s clear that this Sask. Party government is not prioritizing the future of our province.”