New provincial funding announced last week and aimed at supporting Grade 1 students impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic is money well spent.
The government has allocated $10 million in taxpayers’ dollars to help the students catch up in areas such as foundational math and literacy, and to prevent challenges down the road as those students move into higher grades.
Whether this new funding will be part of a long-term commitment to support students or a one-time pre-election ploy remains to be seen – and something residents here and across the province will be watching closely in the coming days and weeks.
Research and feedback from school authorities, teachers and parents has indicated that students currently in Grade 1 are experiencing challenges in their reading and math skills and were affected by pandemic-related learning disruptions in kindergarten or preschool, says Minister of Education Adriana LaGrange.
“We are taking action to prevent future challenges for our youngest learners, who are in the critical years of their development,” said LaGrange.
The Alberta School Boards Association says this new financial support for Grade 1 students is prudent and welcome.
“The ASBA appreciates the investment to address learning disruption for Grade 1 students to support the development of foundational skills,” said president Marilyn Dennis. “This will assist school boards as they continue to support young learners and make informed decisions based on the needs of their local school communities.”
Research has shown definitively that the development of early numeracy skills and early literacy are critically important to the long-term positive achievement of all students.
As such, supporting the youngest students in the school system now is a good investment in the future success of those very same students – and to the benefit of rural and urban communities across this province.
Hopefully, whichever party forms the next provincial government three months from now will commit itself to providing ongoing support for the thousands of students impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dan Singleton is an editor with the Albertan.