The Governments of Saskatchewan and Canada are pleased to announce that more children who require intensive support to attend Prekindergarten will be supported thanks to the expansion of the province’s Early Learning Intensive Support (ELIS) program. The ELIS program will now support an additional 150 preschool-aged children for the 2022-23 school year.
“Supporting our youngest learners is essential to their success in their future education paths,” Education Minister Dustin Duncan said. “We are pleased to continue to support and increase the availability of the ELIS program to more preschool-aged children across the province.”
The ELIS program is for three and four-year-old children with significant, enduring disabilities and developmental delays requiring intensive support to meet their potential. Almost 400 children will benefit from the ELIS program in 26 school divisions this year.
“Families with children with disabilities continue to face unique challenges in finding accessible early learning spaces that meet their needs,” Canada’s Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Karina Gould said. “Increasing access to inclusive early learning and child care across the province will work towards ensuring all children have the best possible start in life.”
The total cost for the program in 2022-23 is $4.9 million. An increase of almost $2 million is being provided to support the expansion of services. This funding is made available through the Canada-Saskatchewan Bilateral Early Learning and Child Care Agreement 2021-26 signed on August 13, 2021.
The ELIS program, which was first piloted in 2018 with 120 spaces in Regina and Saskatoon, was expanded in 2019 and 2020 to include additional communities across the province. With today’s announcement, there are now 392 spaces in the province, more than tripling the number of spaces since it was piloted.
“The ELIS program has been an enormous help to my son and the first time he has been able to be included in a structured setting outside the home, where he is spending time with his peers,” parent to an ELIS student Kayla Haanen said. “Without this program, I do not believe that my child would be at the level of functioning that he is currently at and do not believe that he would have successfully or smoothly entered into the early years of his schooling.”
The ELIS program supports the Saskatchewan Disability Strategy by expanding early learning programming that helps preschool-aged children experiencing disabilities to receive a good start on their learning and development. More than 750 students have accessed the program in Saskatchewan since it began in 2018.