New Rules for Independent Schools in Saskatchewan

·4 min read

In response to the allegations of abuse at the Legacy Christian Academy in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan Education Minister Dustin Duncan, announced changes to The Registered Independent Schools Regulations to increase accountability of Qualified Independent Schools and to provide the Government of Saskatchewan with the ability to appoint a supervisor to oversee the education of students if they feel it is necessary. The Minister announced on Thursday that an administrator will be appointed to three independent schools for the 2022-23 school year. The three schools are Legacy Christian Academy and Grace Christian School both located in Saskatoon and Regent Academy in Prince Albert, who will also be subjected to an unscheduled visit once per month. In addition, the province will also be increasing the number of unscheduled supervised visits to all independent schools for the 2022-23 school year. Each of these three schools have someone employed who was named in the recent class-action lawsuit filed this week naming nearly two dozen officials with the former Saskatoon Christian Centre Church and the Christian Centre Academy, now renamed Legacy Christian Academy, along with others.

Minister Duncan and Premier Moe have both indicated that they feel confident the current students of Legacy Christian Academy are safe. "Student safety is of the utmost importance, and we take all allegations and complaints seriously," Education Minister Dustin Duncan said. "We have taken action to ensure that all students can feel safe, protected and respected no matter what school they attend." Further amendments that came into effect Thursday along with the ability to appoint an administrator, provide the Minister of Education the ability to put schools on probation and a requirement that all Qualified Independent Schools notify the ministry within 24 hours if there are allegations of criminal activity or a criminal charge of a staff member. The ministry also has the ability to suspend or cancel an independent school's certification if necessary. Upon cancellation the school would legally no longer be able to operate and Minister Duncan states that he has no intention of doing that. Saskatchewan government provides operating grants to 21 independent schools (registered, alternative such as a Montessori school, and qualified) in the province and four “historical” high schools of which Rosthern Junior College is one. Historical High Schools are funded as a result of long-standing historical arrangements that were continued when legislation for independent schools was enacted in 1989, and currently receive 80% of the average per-student rate as public schools. It is important to remember that the alleged abuses which are said to have occurred at Legacy Christian Academy are the exception and not the norm and not every independent school should be tainted by the allegations made against Legacy.

The administrator(s) who will be appointed to oversee the three aforementioned schools will hold a Master of Education degree, a valid Professional A Teacher's Certificate and have a minimum of two years of school administration experience.

Prior to Thursday’s changes and since 2012, all Qualified Independent Schools were visited and monitored by the Ministry of Education, with teachers being supervised on site a minimum of three times a year and they are also required to submit course outlines, individual lesson plans and yearly plans.. Before 2012 the provincial Ministry of Education had no regulatory oversight over independent schools, Duncan stated.

In 2012, the province began providing funding to Qualified Independent Schools who met the standards and criteria outlined in provincial regulations. The province said in May of 2022, it had created a new category, a certified independent school, due to the expansion and growth of qualified independent schools. This new category it said, created a step between qualified independent and associate schools. However, associate schools are independent schools which have an agreement in place with a board of education to operate in association with it and would therefore seem to have the oversight that qualified independent schools do not. Minister Duncan said on Thursday that the schools in the new category are usually larger than a typical ‘qualified’ independent and will receive funding at 75% of the average per-student rate. Legacy Christian Academy would have met the criteria for approval to become a certified independent school, but that approval is on hold until the outcome of the police investigation is known.

With a class-action lawsuit waiting for certification by a judge in order to proceed and terms like “cult” being used to describe the actions and beliefs of those in charge of the organization, one thing is certain, the new school year will be a stressful one for the students and parents at Legacy Christian Academy.

Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wakaw Recorder