The past week was a difficult one at Mother Teresa Middle School (MTMS), as it was for so many schools throughout the country. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Government of Saskatchewan has ordered all schools in the province to close effective March 20 th . All staff and students have been instructed to stay home indefinitely. What this means is that MTMS will be totally shut down this week (March 23 rd – March 27 th ) and staff will work from home starting March 30 th . To the best of our knowledge, our staff, students and their families are currently safe, but many challenges will lie ahead.
Our last day with students was Thursday, March 19 th , and it was an emotional one. The prospect of no longer seeing friends or students for the foreseeable future, the possibility of it being the last day spent at MTMS and not knowing what comes next was a bit overwhelming for both staff and students. School closure for our students means more than just lost learning time. MTMS is a warm, caring place where students are loved and have their basic needs met so they can learn, explore and grow. It is a place of stability, safety and security but within a week that has all been disrupted. As we take significant steps to distance ourselves from one another to flatten the curve of COVID-19, we remain committed to our students and alumni during this time of uncertainty.
At MTMS, we are doing our best to move forward and adapt to our new normal. The COVID-19 virus has and will continue to hit our families especially hard. This past week we spoke to students in a coordinated effort to answer their questions and quash their fears and anxieties. Our teachers worked tirelessly to assemble work packages and gather school supplies for students to take home, so they can continue to learn. Our Student Support Staff connected with all students, alumni and families, to ensure they are safe, have their basic needs met for the short term and are informed and educated about the COVID-19 virus, as well as the accessible community supports available. Our Office Staff, Leadership Team and Board of Directors embarked on a business continuity plan and we continue to work with our Community Partners, the Regina Catholic School Division, the Ministry of Education, the Health Authority and the Regina Food Bank, to ensure all are safe and secure. It was humbling to see the coordinated efforts of all and as a leader, I am very proud of how the MTMS staff responded.
To all who have reached out to offer support to MTMS, we thank you! We will continue to need you moving forward. We are certain that food insecurity will soon become a reality and we worry about the impact that the isolation and social distancing will have on the mental health of our students and their families. The gap between the middle and upper class and our families who live in poverty, will no doubt be magnified throughout this crisis. Currently, MTMS is working on a Response Plan to get food, personal hygiene products and cleaning products into the hands of our students/families on a bi-weekly basis – if we can safely do so. To those of you who wish to help, we could greatly use your support , as we strive to provide assistance to 157 students and their families over the coming weeks.
The disruption of learning will be a big challenge for MTMS students but please know that we are taking actions to address it. We are exploring ways to allow all our students’ access to technology and the internet while at home, so they can continue to learn and teachers can continue to provide instruction virtually. This will extend to our alumni in high school who wish to continue learning and need additional supports. Our College and Careers Coach will also provide assistance to alumni currently completing their post-secondary semesters using an online platform. We are working to ensure the holistic supports of MTMS’s model can continue to be offered during this time. This includes looking at ways to keep our students fit not only mentally but physically as well. The Student Support Staff will continue to connect with all MTMS students and alumni throughout the coming weeks to ensure access to any counselling and mental health supports they require. Some of the external Psychologists have already started to provide counselling over Skype or FaceTime. Our mentors continue to check in with our students and one mentor has even compiled a list of fun things you can do with your mentee from afar. Mentors will be incredibly valuable and will play a huge role moving forward.
The staff and students of MTMS are resilient and with the support of our incredible community, have been dealing with unpredictable situations for the past nine years. This current global situation has allowed the school to model the Jesuit characteristic of being ‘Open to Growth’ in very literal ways. As the ‘hows’ of support evolve daily, our priority has always been and remains the well-being and safety our students and staff. We will continue to find creative solutions to the complex problems we are faced with and thank you for your thoughts and prayers. Please stay safe, practice social distancing and wash your hands!
Mother Teresa Middle School