It has been 2 weeks since our road from Sandy Bay to the rest of Saskatchewan has been closed. It has been 1 week since a majority of our community has been evacuated and sent to Prince Albert and or Saskatoon, due to the poor air quality and smoke.
BUT forest fires are not keeping us down. HTCS and the community of Sandy Bay has worked hard to open the school for our students (and community members) this past Thursday and Friday.
We worked as a team to open our doors for the first day of school on Thursday, Sept. 7th 2017. We had an amazing first day! Students arrived early (yes, early) to a prepared breakfast and beautifully decorated and organized classrooms. I saw many smiles and heard much laughter as students greeted new teachers and teachers they previously had, and missed over the summer.
I want to take some time to acknowledge the journey it took to reach that point.
Due to the forest fires and closed roads, a majority of our teachers were stranded in Prince Albert and surrounding areas because they were scheduled to attend a PD session before school began. Our community and consequently our school, was under a threat of evacuation and the potential of creeping forest fires. We were unsure if we would have to close the school down and also evacuate to PA. Sandy Bay decided to evacuate at a level 1 and still remains at a level 1 evacuation.
Despite the unusual start to the school year, we rallied together as a community and as a school to help collect donated canned food and food items to help prepare a free meal to the community, we opened our school doors to evacuees and installed air purifiers in our main gym to help in the support of our community and community leaders. The community itself has worked together to help organize and put together food boxes to help aid in the provision of food items due to not having access to a grocery store in our community. The school will begin it’s lunch program on Monday, and will begin for the first time to offer a free hot lunch on Mondays and Fridays to our student body, this comes at a most vital time as again, we as a community do not have access to a grocery store.
Our stranded teachers worked alongside our school division to organize a convoy back into our community in order to begin setting up their classrooms and begin the school year. Those teachers drove through forest fires (literally) to arrive in Sandy Bay to start the school year. We are grateful for their dedication to the school, the students, and the community. It is truely a show of love and commitment on their part.
After all of this we are still standing. We are still loving. We are still working. We are still serving.
I think this story is a testament to Sandy Bay and our community as a whole. The community of Sandy Bay is made up of hard workers and loving and caring people.