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The sun shines on the Saskatchewan Legislative Building at Wascana Centre in Regina on May 30, 2020. The Opposition NDP wants the Saskatchewan government to spend millions in new federal money to pay for the safe reopening of schools on reducing class sizes.

Mark Taylor/The Canadian Press

The Opposition NDP wants the Saskatchewan government to use millions in new federal funding for schools to reduce class sizes.

The Ministry of Education said it will receive $74-million out of $2-billion Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced as students prepare to head back to class during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Saskatchewan government said this money will be added to a $40-million pot it established for school divisions to safely welcome back students and staff.

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Districts can apply to access half of the $40-million and the additional money is going to buy personal protective equipment and improve distance learning.

Wednesday was the deadline for Saskatchewan’s 27 school divisions to have their back-to-school safety plans posted online with specific information for parents.

NDP education critic Carla Beck said there are still classrooms with too many students and the government should use the federal money to make them smaller in order to lower the risk of outbreaks.

“Concerns are really concentrated in crowded classrooms where physical distancing can’t be maintained, where people are together for long periods of time and where air circulation is problematic,” she said Wednesday.

Education Minister Gord Wyant said the cash from Ottawa was a “welcome surprise” and Premier Scott Moe had spoken about it with Trudeau.

It’s possible the federal dollars will flow into making class sizes smaller, Wyant said, adding the provincial government is required to report to Ottawa on how the money is spent.

“The priorities, of course, will be around … ensuring that there’s a safe return on Day 1, but looking at staffing, looking at supplies,” he said.

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“Immunocompromised children will be a priority.”

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