The school divisions said the decision was made after consultations with public health.
Level 4 means a move to all online learning, according to the Saskatchewan Safe Schools Plan.
The divisions released a joint statement on the move Tuesday evening, with the change taking place from Jan. 4 to Jan. 15, 2021.
High schools in the city include Prince Albert Collegiate Institute (PACI), Wesmor and Carlton Comprehensive High School in Saskatchewan Rivers and Ecole St. Mary High School in the Catholic division.
According to Catholic division director of education Lorel Trumier, the divisions have been assessing on a regular basis to come to the decision.
“We have really been moving in and out of levels since the beginning of the school year and this has not come lightly and without a lot of review for where things are at,” Trumier said.
“COVID is very real and it’s very dynamic and fluid here in terms of how things are working and so we are trying to respond to the emerging health risks and needs in our community based on health information at this time.”
In Saskatchewan Rivers, Vincent Massey Public School was moved to Level 4 on Monday and the decision-making was similar, according to director of education Robert Bratvold.
“It is challenging and we acknowledge the difficulty that puts many families in, in terms of having their children home all day now instead of in school. But it’s the decision that aligns best with the requirements for health and safety and operations of our school,” he said.
According to Bratvold that decision was also based on the advice of public health that explained that there was a potential for multiple classrooms to be exposed.
Students will temporarily participate in remote learning during this time and both divisions expect to return to the current structure for learning on Jan. 18.
“It means that we are still going to provide programming and we are going to do our best to insure that our students are continuing to manage the learning program as we go through this very fluid and dynamic time called COVID,” Bratvold said.
“I think that anyone who wants to drive by the testing sites and see what the long waits are like will know that there is good reason for this to move this way after Christmas.”
The preventative measure is in response to public health recommendations based on the increased rates of community transmission of COVID-19.
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Trumier explained that being an urban centre with higher density population also played a role in the decision.
“Our transmission rates are high and getting higher and we need to manage them and do what we can to support that as well and keep people as safe as possible,” she said.
Students will participate and engage in remote learning programming, as learning expectations will remain a priority.
Schools will provide specialized programming or support for intensive learning needs on an individualized basis.
Information and instruction for all students and families will be forthcoming from their school administration and staff.
“There are great learning activities that happen remotely but the most familiar and the most supportive learning environment for most of our kids is in a classroom with their peers and their teacher and staff,” Bratvold said.
He explained that the goal is generally to keep students in classrooms but listening to health experts is the best course.
Information regarding the procedures for the start of the new block, on Jan, 4, 2021, will be finalized prior to Dec. 18.
Recently both the Regina public and Catholic divisions decided to also move students to Level 4.
“We know that other school divisions across this province are contemplating the move depending on their local health assessments,” Trumier said.
The divisions also reminded students and families to continue to be diligent in performing daily health screening, staying home if ill, calling HealthLine 811 if exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, practicing proper hand hygiene, maintaining physical distancing as much as possible, wearing a mask when appropriate, and doing everything we can to keep each other safe.
“Thank you for your continued support as matters evolve by emerging health risk assessments related to COVID-19,” the release stated.
© 2020 Prince Albert Daily Herald