Students in Regina will be back in the classroom on Monday, Jan. 11 after moving to level four learning the week before and after the holiday break.

The return back to classes comes with some uncertainty if cases of COVID-19 increase in schools.

"We're hopeful that this has kind of reset things a little bit and we can be in a better position," Twylla West with the Regina Catholic School Division (RCSD) said. "We need to make sure safety is the number one for our students and for our staff, and we have to be in a place where everybody can be safe. And beyond that we want them to be able to do their jobs and for students, that's learning and for our teachers and our support staff that is helping the students to learn and delivering that education."

The RCSD said the decision to move kids to remote learning was necessary because it was about eight substitute educators short daily, which was creating a safety concern.

It also said student absenteeism was up about 30 per cent or 3,500 students daily from mid-November to mid-December.

"We've used the words ‘fluid’ and ‘flexibility’ and the phrase 'prepared to pivot' so much over the last several months," West said. "We're all in a really difficult situation, it's impacting us all differently but this is not easy and I think I can say that's likely the case for every sector, it's not just education. This is impacting everybody, and no job today looks the same way that it did one year ago.”

The RCSD said it understands the uncertainty ahead does come with some stress but it will support families and deliver education.

"The bottom line is this isn't easy," West said. "We are prepared to deliver quality education, no matter which way we have to deliver it. And we appreciate the support of all of our families and the hard work that all of our students and our staff are putting into this.

The Regina Public School Division said when students return on Monday, all health and safety precautions will continue to be put in place.

It also said it can't comment on the potential for future remote learning as that would be premature at this time.

Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which represents educational support staff in Regina schools, said many employees are concerned about returning to school on Monday.

"Proper PPE (personal protective equipment) would definitely help alleviate some of these fears," Rob Westfield with CUPE said. "Perhaps knowing where we stand in the vaccination line as well would also help, especially if the government is prioritizing education and keeping in-class learning." 

At a press conference Wednesday, Saskatchewan Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said right now the province is focusing on vaccinating high-risk groups. Once those individuals are vaccinated, then the province will start expanding the vaccine to essential workers, which would include educators. Shahab said those essential workers might need to wait until the spring for those doses of the vaccine.

"All of that can change," Shahab said. "We could get more vaccine and that's welcomed earlier. Vaccine supply could be constrained going forward even in May or June because there are lots of issues that can happen. None of these vaccines are manufactured in Canada. So there are lots of issues that can happen on the way."