'It is pretty incredible:' Students, staff spend night at school as storm hits Saskatchewan

·3 min read
'It is pretty incredible:' Students, staff spend night at school as storm hits Saskatchewan
Students Neko and Reeve Williams-Ruf were among the six people who slept at Stewart Valley School, in southern Saskatchewan, after a winter storm tore through the area. (Stewart Valley School/Facebook - image credit)
Students Neko and Reeve Williams-Ruf were among the six people who slept at Stewart Valley School, in southern Saskatchewan, after a winter storm tore through the area. (Stewart Valley School/Facebook - image credit)

As a late March storm descended on Saskatchewan on Monday, two students and four staff members spent their night camped out in the Stewart Valley School.

"We found ourselves in such a unique circumstance and for our staff and even our veteran teachers, you know, they've never been in a scenario like this," Jared Wipf, the school's principal told CBC on Tuesday.

The kindergarten to Grade 8 school serves the community of Stewart Valley, about 275 kilometres northwest of Regina. Students are also bused in from the farms in the surrounding area.

Staff began preparing to make sure students could get home safely as soon as the winter storm descended on the region at around 10 a.m. But as the day went on, the weather conditions got worse bringing low visibility and a significant snowfall, that dumped about six feet of the white stuff around the school.

Some snow drifts were six-feet high and blocked doors or windows at Stewart Valley School.
Some snow drifts were six-feet high and blocked doors or windows at Stewart Valley School. (Submitted by Jared Wipf)

Although the majority of students were able to get picked up to go home, others weren't able to make the journey.

That's when the residents of Stewart Valley, a village with a population of about 90, stepped up and opened their doors offering to billet students overnight.

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"I want to sincerely thank the locals and residents of Stewart Valley for graciously accepting those students that were unable to get home safely," Wipf said.

However, as the storm got worse there were still four staff members and two students, Neko and Reeve Williams-Ruf at the school. The brothers are the sons of one of the staff members.

They decided to make the best of it and shelter overnight.

"[The boys] didn't believe it at first. I think that they thought we were pulling their leg," Wipf said.

The six campers received bedding from the Stewart Valley Daycare. And some of the families living nearby provided refreshments, including muffins and fresh buns, to help fortify the group.

The makeshift bed that Jared Wipf, principal at Stewart Valley School, slept in overnight. Wipf, three other staff members and two students stayed at the school due to the winter storm.
The makeshift bed that Jared Wipf, principal at Stewart Valley School, slept in overnight. Wipf, three other staff members and two students stayed at the school due to the winter storm. (Submitted by Jared Wipf)

"It was really special as well, as after we had what we felt we needed at the school, the phones continued to ring and we had more and more residents reaching out to us, seeing if there was anything that they could provide us or any way that they'd be able to help," Wipf told CBC.

As wind continued to whip by the school throughout the night — Environment Canada clocked winds gusts as high as 120 km/h in the Swift Current area, about 35 kilometres to the south — it gave staff members a time a time to bond and come together.

They cooked and prepared food together and chatted right up until bed time.

"I would like to think we took this crummy situation and tried to make the most of it," Wipf said.

Some students left the school earlier on Monday and were billeted in the community.
Some students left the school earlier on Monday and were billeted in the community. (Stewart Valley School/Facebook)

Everyone made it through the night and the school is open today, even though some students weren't able to make it in due to the treacherous road conditions.

Wipf said they will continue to make the best of the day, buoyed by the outpouring of support.

"I think it is pretty incredible what happened yesterday."