The Saskatchewan Rivers School Division plan to return to in class learning on Jan. 18 is going ahead as planned.
Schools in both the Prince Albert Catholic School Division and Saskatchewan Rivers moved to Level 4 on Dec. 14 before the Christmas break.
Director of education Robert Bratvold said the move has already been communicated to families in the division.
“We just had our conversation with the local health team this morning and they confirmed that they fully expect to return to in person learning for Jan. 18,” Bratvold said on Tuesday.
The plan was made after consultation with local public health officials in response to the increased rates of community transmission and potential exposures of COVID-19 and Public Health recommendations. Bratvold said they will see how it plays out after students return to schools.
He added that the days leading up to Christmas after the order was issued in December were difficult.
“It was a short notice thing. People were prepared in the sense that they knew they could be isolated at any time if there was an outbreak in a classroom but not prepared for that full scale everybody in the school going home, so that was tough,” he explained.
He credited parents and students in the division for being resilient in the face of the situation.
When students returned to learning last week they were able to have typical return to school activities. The challenges for families and students in the division include finding childcare while at the same time supporting remote learning for the extended period of time.
“Families have conveyed support for their teachers doing great things and adapting their programming. They have also expressed an appreciation for and an understanding for why we are doing this. That has been reassuring,”
The additional time after Christmas was added to allow two full viral intubation cycles before students returned to class.
“Two weeks of intubation cycles is an additional buffer…. Health has learned some things around how the epidemiology works, how schools have an impact and practices that are in school confirmed to be effective in further study, so that has been a help,” he explained.
At the administration level the decision was based on what was seen in December. As the month continued, cases were traced back to schools in the division. The situation escalated to single schools, high schools and finally all schools moving to Level 4.
“The work that we saw in our principals, division staff and teachers in managing even despite the increasing numbers of classrooms that had to be isolate was really impressive. It was difficult and draining, but we were prepared to manage that in the best way we could,”
Bratvold explained that in the weeks leading up to the decision, the management and communication in the division became more efficient and effective.
“It was health that said they had to see this happen and we said, ‘okay it can happen.’ I’m thankful health is saying now that we saw that happen and now we are ready to go back to in person learning and I am thankful for that,” he added.