Saskatchewan Rivers board planning numerous in-person engagements for first time since start of COVID

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald The Saskatchewan Rivers School Division board of education met at the Education Centre in September

The Saskatchewan Rivers School Division board of education plans to meet with local RMs and towns, touring schools for the first time since the start of COVID-19.

Board chair Barry Hollick did the planning for the RM and town engagement during the regular meeting on Monday, March 14. The board hopes to reengage the communities on matters of mutual interest, while also engaging with staff members and the province.

“The year prior to COVID we had done some other work with other stakeholders, so I think it has been three years since we have done it,” education director Robert Bratvold said. “We hope to have an invitation out to our RMs, towns and villages and have some conversation about partnerships and educational issues we can address.”

Transportation is one of the biggest matters of mutual interest. The board will invite tow representatives from each council to discuss that and other issues, although a date has not been formally set.

Planning has begun, however, with organizers considering holding the meetings at Carlton Comprehensive High School to put it on display.

In-person school tours will also return this year. The board has started planning formal tours already. Last year there were only virtual tours. Despite the challenges, Bratvold said they were able to stay on schedule.

“There was only one school we anticipated getting to last year that we didn’t get to,” he explained. “We did them virtually and that’s not the same as being able to walk through the building.”

The division will be scheduling a couple of days in May to get back on track. The tours are usually two days in May and then occasionally one halfway through the year in January.

“Over the course of a couple of years we will certainly get to all of the schools,” Bratvold said. “We will get back on the schedule. Trustees are really looking forward to that and I know principals, although they appreciate the virtual format we did last year, universally they said we are looking for the time we can meet the trustees in person to show them around their building, and we are looking forward to that.”

The board still has to finalize which portion of the division they’ll visit this year. Initially, they had planned to start in the northwest.

During trustee Darlene Rowden’s update on board advocacy, there was a discussion about meeting with both the Minister of Health Paul Merriman and Minister of Education Dustin Duncan.

“In the province there is some efforts to be more inter-ministerial collaborative so that you have education and health, justice, social services all working with kids and students. (It’s) finding some ways to make that work more collaborative and collective so we each know what each is doing for each other in the work,” Bratvold said.

Locally, the division has connections with local health, justice and social services, but Bratvold said they want to strengthen those ties by meeting the ministers collectively to share their successes, and make suggestions for different areas where they can find improvements.

No plans have been formalized so far, but Bratvold said discussions remain ongoing.

“We would really like to have the Minister of Education come and visit and certainly if we can have… the minister join in for a bit of a focused conversation that would be a positive thing,” he added.

The board of education is also returning to an in-person staff long-term service recognition in June. This event would recognize retirees and people serving the division for 10 years, 20 years and other long service.

“That’s going to be great,” Bratvold said. “People are looking forward to that with great anticipation. It’s one of the highlight events in our school year where the board gets to recognize those staff who have served our students and families and communities for a long time and also a special opportunity to say thanks to those who are retiring.

The event is tentatively planned for June 13 at the Prince Albert Wildlife Federation Hall with more details to come, according to Bratvold.

“The board really looks forward to it and there is really a history of a strong support for that from staff too. That night in June is going to be good,” he said.