Ministry focusing on early learning strategies
In an announcement by the Saskatchewan government (March 14), the province’s Early Learning Intensive Support pilot program will be expanding from the two original locations of Regina and Saskatoon to five additional communities including: Moose Jaw, North Battleford, Prince Albert, Swift Current and Yorkton.
“This expansion will provide 50 more Sask-atchewan children with intensive needs access to professional supports,” Education Minister Gord Wyant said in making the recent announcement.
“It has been less than a year since our initial programs began operating, we have now allocated 170 spaces for prekindergarten children with intensive needs,” Wyant noted.
More than $2 million in funding is being provided for this program through the Canada-Saskatchewan Early Learning and Child Care Agreement. It will allow school divisions to provide additional supports for children with intensive needs attending prekindergarten programs. This includes hiring additional educational assistants and bringing in specialized resources.
“The expansion of the Early Learning Intensive Support pilot program to new communities will ensure more kids in Saskatchewan get the best possible start in life,” said Federal Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Ralph Goodale.
“The federal and provincial governments are providing additional support for those with intensive needs, allowing them to make smooth transitions to kindergarten and elementary school–building a solid foundation for their success.”
There are currently 109 families enrolled in existing ELIS pilot programs in Saskatchewan. Once this expansion is completed, it will bring the number of available spots for preschoolers with intensive needs to 170. Prince Albert is set to receive 28 of the new spots.
Meanwhile, in an earlier announcement, the Ministry of Education again focused its effort on early years students by earmarking $1.5 million in funding to create Early Years Family Resource Centres in seven communities–The Battlefords, Meadow Lake, Moose Jaw, Nipawin, Prince Albert, Saskatoon and one in northern Saskatchewan.
“Over the past year, our three existing sites have had nearly 50,000 visits,” Wyant said. “The benefits of this model can be seen today, and I have no doubt the additional centres will have a lasting impact on all members within their communities.”
The new centres will be developed through community partnerships led by KidsFirst, who will be responsible for finding physical space in each of the communities, hiring staff and developing programing for a planned opening in the fall.