Teachers, school administrators and support staff in Living Sky and Light of Christ Catholic school divisions are currently on what division administrators are calling a "pause."
Schools across the province closed March 20 and head office administrators in both divisions are working remotely in preparation for what they call an "education continuity plan."
The pause ends March 27.
"I don’t know what is going to happen on the 27th," says Light of Christ Director of Education Cory Rideout.
"That has been my communication to staff and our parents in the community. When I know they will know. The intent of this pause was to allow everyone in the education sector, and the province of Saskatchewan in general, to have the opportunity to take a deep breath and do some planning and make some sound decisions and that is what we are planning to do as well."
Efforts are being focused on developing remote learning opportunities for students of all ages.
"The commitment we are making for our families is we are going to give all our students the opportunity to better their grade and move forward in their education," says Rideout.
Rideout and Living Sky Media Consultant Shannon Lessard, acknowledge there will be technology challenges for some families, and that the continuity plan will need to address that problem.
In some cases the schools may allow families to sign out devices, according to Rideout.
When asked about alternatives for those families Lessard said the support would probably go beyond worksheets.
"I hope we are going to be a little more creative than that, but we are going to try to figure out what it is going to look like next week and I think it will evolve," she said.
She added that all the division's communities have different needs.
"We are looking at a variety of options right now and this is what we will be discussing next week."
Lessard said resources will be posted on Living Sky's website and the division and teachers will be reaching out to families as the continuity plan develops.
The Ministry of Education has developed a team representing a wide spectrum of education organizations that is working to give direction, she explained.
After the pause, Light of Christ will look at implementing professional development and other necessary work to be completed remotely by support staff.
"Our challenge now is to see how we do that in a virtual space," Rideout said.
During the pause and beyond employees of the division are being paid. Rideout said those on contract would also be paid.
"At a time when there hasn’t been much good news, I hope this brings you some peace of mind. Pay for all Living Sky employees will continue as normal for the foreseeable future," said Living Sky Director of Education Brenda Vickers in a message to employees.
"We have been told that our operating grant from the government will remain in place and we can continue to pay people as long as this is the case. If something unforeseen should occur with our grant that is beyond our control we will have to re-evaluate, but I do not anticipate this happening."
The grant is paid up until the end of the school year, Lessard said.
There are children in both divisions who rely on school programs for food.
"That is something we will have to do some planning around, not only as a school division, but as a province," Rideout said.
"All of our staff has gone above and beyond in this situation to make sure parents feel supported and feel that they are loved. That is the big thing for us," he said.
"We want our families, and students, to know we care for them and love them and, as always, we want is best for them. We are going to do whatever we need to do to make sure they have every opportunity access to learning regardless of what the situation hold past March 27.."
Schools closed March 20 and on that day letters were distributed to families, one from Living Sky School Division board chair Ronna Pethick and the other from the Ministry of Education response and planning team.
The letters thank families, staff and communities for their understanding and support.
School staff will be returning to work March 30, although at this time officials are unsure if that will be in the schools or from home.
Pithick writes, “School staff are anxious to get back on March 30 so they can implement a plan to stay connected with their students and families and to work on continued learning opportunities. Families will be contacted the week of March 30 regarding the possibility of picking up personal items and school materials at some time in the future.”
Work on the education continuity plan continues and begins with a link on the division’s website (www.lskysd.ca) that will contain resources for multi-age learning.
The Ministry of Education says the school closure is considered indefinite. The letter from the ministry confirms students will progress to the next grade or class and those who are eligible to do so will graduate.
The response planning team will be providing continued updates and information to school divisions as the response takes shape, according to the letter.