During the Saskatchewan winter, severe weather is a part of life. Severe weather may include very cold temperatures and wind chill, blizzards and heavy snow fall, and ice storms.
Saskatoon Public Schools' guidelines state that students are to stay inside the school when the temperature (with the wind chill) is minus 27 degrees Celsius. The means students stay indoors during recess and during the noon hour (for those students who stay for lunch.)
When the wind chill is minus 20 to minus 26, students are expected to dress warmly and go outside during recess and noon hour, for fresh air and exercise. Students can come into the school to warm up in the boot room and are then expected to return outside after a few minutes. Fresh air and exercise provides energy for the rest of the day and we are working hard to ensure our staff and students remain in motion!
School staff monitors the wind chill and temperatures throughout the day as the safety of both students and staff remains a priority on very cold days. Employees at Saskatoon Public Schools work closely with the City of Saskatoon and first responders (police, fire, ambulance, Emergency Measures Organization) to address safety issues.
Parents and guardians are reminded to ensure their children are dressed appropriately for the weather. Whether children are walking to school, taking the school bus or the city bus, or being dropped off at school in a vehicle, it's very important to check that they are wearing mitts, a scarf, warm coat, boots and something on their head. On high wind chill days, all exposed skin should be covered. Parents are encouraged to make decisions about their child's attendance at school based on current weather conditions and safe transportation to and from school.
Elementary schools require that students arrive at school no sooner than 15 minutes prior to bell time unless they are arriving for a teacher-supervised activity. If you are unsure, please check with your child's school about when teachers provide playground supervision for students.
School closures due to severe weather
School closures are very rare. When a school is closed it means the building is locked up and no one is in the building.
In cases of severe weather (e.g. a blizzard with zero visibility, snow and extremely cold temperatures), Saskatoon Public Schools may cancel classes, but closing buildings is a rare occurrence. If classes are cancelled, we will do our very best to try and have a staff member at the school in cases of inclement weather in case a student shows up at the school. However, storm conditions may prevent this from happening.
Many factors are taken into consideration when deciding to cancel classes, but the safety of students and staff is the number one consideration.
What parents/guardians need to do
- Have alternate arrangements in place for their children in case classes are cancelled.
- Children should know where to go if parents or guardians will not be at home and know how to contact them.
- Parents should ensure their emergency contact information is kept up to date at their child's school. If emergency phone numbers change, please inform school staff in the front office. Please provide a telephone number at which you can be reached immediately.
- In cold weather students should be dressed appropriately. No one can predict when a school might have to be evacuated due to fire or another emergency.
- As primary care givers, parents and guardians need to decide what is best for their children. The option to keep children at home when weather conditions are extreme is at the parent's discretion. As a school division, we have a responsibility to educate your child. We work very hard to minimize any interruption to your child's education. Classes are interrupted only on rare occasions.
Emergency dismissal procedures
In cases of severe weather, there may be instances where Saskatoon Public Schools invokes our emergency dismissal procedures. Each school principal is responsible for developing a contingency plan for the emergency dismissal of students and ensuring that all parents and guardians are aware of the plan.
In cases of emergency dismissal, the following procedures must be followed:
- All students must be advised of the reason for the dismissal (e.g. impending severe weather).
- Depending on the situation, secondary students may be dismissed on their own with the offer of assistance if needed. The school’s administrative team is available for support. For example, if the weather is very cold and students who drive to school cannot start their vehicles, they should be advised to return to the school until a parent or guardian can be contacted. Students should not attempt to walk home unless a member of the school staff determines it is safe to do so.
- In the case of secondary students who take city transit to school, the school division's manager of transportation works with the City of Saskatoon to arrange for earlier access to city buses.
- Elementary students (who are not bused to school) are not allowed to leave the school until a parent or guardian has been contacted and comes to the school to pick them up. Adequate staff coverage will be provided at the school until all children have been picked up by a parent or guardian. If a student is picked up by someone other than the parent, (after permission has been given by the parent) the student must be signed out. It's very important for families to ensure their emergency contact information is up to date so that school staff can contact parents and guardians quickly and efficiently. Please provide a telephone number at which you can be reached immediately.
- In the case of elementary students (who are bused to school) the school division's manager of transportation works with our transportation provider FirstStudent Canada to arrange for early bus pick-up, if school buses are still running. If school buses are not running, students are not dismissed until a parent or guardian picks them up and signs them out of school.
- In the case of students who are transported to school by taxi, the school division's manager of transportation works closely with the taxicab companies to arrange for early cab pickup.
- The school’s principal is responsible for providing, or arranging for, safe accommodation of students who cannot get home. In extreme circumstances, students and staff may have to remain at the school overnight.
Cancellation of First Student Buses
Students who are bused to school are bused by our transportation provider First Student Canada. We expect school buses to operate as scheduled under most weather and urban travel conditions usually experienced in Saskatchewan. There should be very few occasions when severe weather and adverse operating conditions affect school bus service. However, when these conditions arise, school bus service may be delayed, altered or cancelled.
Parents whose children are bused to school are responsible for monitoring winter weather conditions and for having an alternate plan if the school bus is cancelled due to severe weather. Please ensure your child is familiar with your alternate plan. If parents believe there is a risk of harm before their child gets on the bus (for example, severely cold weather), it is the parent's responsibility to arrange for a safe way for their child to meet the school bus or to seek alternate shelter. If the school bus is cancelled, it is the parent's responsibility to make alternate arrangements to get their child to school safely.
During the coldest winter months, please listen to local radio stations in the morning for information about school bus cancellations. Our transportation provider First Student Canada relies on the local media to help them let parents know if buses are cancelled due to severe weather. It's also a good idea to call the First Student bus information line at 343-3300
as information is updated by First Student at regular intervals. First Student also has a website that you can access, that will give you updated details of any cancellations or delays. It also allows you to subscribe to email alerts for specific schools. First Student's website can be found here
Wheelchair buses are automatically cancelled for the entire day when Environment Canada reports the temperature with wind child at 7:00 a.m. is minus 40 degrees Celsius or colder.
First Student school buses are automatically cancelled for the entire day when Environment Canada reports the temperature with wind chill at 7:00 a.m. is minus 45 degrees Celsius or colder.
Severe weather and adverse operating conditions include, but are not limited to:
- high winds
- poor visibility
- extremely cold temperatures
- high wind chill factors
- snowdrifts, deeply rutted or snowbound roads
- torrential rain, flooding, mud
Safety of students and safety of drivers is the overriding consideration when a decision is made to delay, alter or cancel bus service. That decision is made jointly by First Student Canada, Saskatoon Public Schools and Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools.
Cancellation of United Blueline Cab and Shuttle (Radio Cab) cab service
Safety of students and safety of drivers is the overriding consideration when a decision is made to delay, alter or cancel taxicab service. The decision is made jointly between Saskatoon Public Schools and the taxicab companies.
Working together for safe schools
Saskatoon schools have well-developed partnerships in our community. We work closely with the City of Saskatoon's Emergency Measures Organization, Saskatoon Police Service and Saskatoon Fire and Protective Services to help ensure that our schools are safe places to be. With their help we have developed, and regularly review, our safety plans. These plans enable our staff to effectively and efficiently respond to emergencies and crisis situations that may arise in our schools.
Parents and guardians also play a role in working with all partners in keeping our students safe.
The City of Saskatoon Emergency Measures Organization (EMO) has developed three excellent videos for the public. Click on the links below to view the videos:
Winter Storm Safety streaming on YouTube here
Emergency Preparedness streaming on YouTube here
Shelter in Place streaming on YouTube here