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Horizon School Division
Creating a better world, one student at a time.
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Our World - a message from Kevin C. Garinger, Director of Education, March 30, 2020

March 30, 2020

Good evening, everyone.

Well, the delivery of PreK-12 education is about to look very different in Horizon School Division and across Saskatchewan and beyond, for that matter. The “pause week” is behind us, our Division plans have been developed with a view to continuing to modify these and add to them as we adjust to our new realities. On Monday, the real work of supplemental learning began with staff meetings across our system and plans being made to enter our schools for teachers and support staff. I have required that support staff return to schools later in the week in order to be able to access technology that is being prepared by our technology services team. Speaking of teams, I want to say to our Horizon team, the best team anyone could ask for, that no matter where we are or how far apart we may be, I hold to the belief that our relationships are the strongest pull and they keep us tightly connected when distance tries to keep us apart.

In the coming days, staff will begin connecting with families and students, reestablishing the other relationships that are so vitally important and that our students rely on to thrive as learners. Through the contact that will be made, families will know that they are not alone in supporting the educational wellbeing of their children during this crisis. Despite the distances between us, we are here to offer our support, our professionalism, and our expertise. This week and next, heading into Good Friday and the Easter Break, we will be focusing on those connections with families and learning how we can continue learning beginning April 20, 2020. Our students have different needs when it comes to learning, and so do our families. While online tools exist to support this work, many families do not have access to the internet. We need to explore the options available for each family and student, to ensure all who desire to continue learning at this time are supported. There will be a learning curve for everyone involved. Be patient with one another. Show kindness. Try to understand and show empathy for the difficult positions we all find ourselves in at this time. Know that we are in this together, and we all want the very best for children.   

Our central office staff has been working long hours from home to ensure we get paid, have access to technology and support, and maintain all the other critical functions that keep our system running. They have been instrumental in creating resources and plans that are critical for our ongoing work. Many of our teachers and professional staff have begun developing lessons or ideas to support students in the weeks ahead. Facility Services staff have been looking after the essential maintenance of our buildings and ensuring our playgrounds are marked, “Do Not Use”. Most recently, I had a message from one of our amazing bus drivers who we know to be such an important part of our Horizon team. I was provided with ideas to continue their important connections to families while supporting the work that is all about learning. Like so many of you who provided ideas around supplemental learning, it was brilliant. I am so proud of Horizon School Division and the countless ways we have pulled together to face these challenges. As much as we would all like our children riding our buses and to be greeting them as they enter our schools, we will find other ways to ensure they know we care and that we want the very best for them. We will continue to find unique ways together as a team to meet our Board’s vision of “Creating a better world, one student at a time”.

I spent the last week in conference calls, video meetings, and planning sessions with Deputy Minister’s office, the Chief Medical Health Officer, my fellow Directors and Board Chairs, my fellow members of the Response Planning Team’s Corporate Services subcommittee, and my Senior Leadership Team (SLT) and Central Office Admin Team (COAT) in Horizon. Our system has developed an updated Business Continuity Plan (BCP) and the Horizon Supplemental Learning Plan (HSLP) to guide our work in this new world. These are evergreen documents that we will be added to, changed, and adjusted along with our ever-changing reality. I cannot overstate how much I appreciate the work that has gone into these documents. We began the week today with an 8 AM videoconference meeting of my Director’s Leadership Team (DLT), to review these documents and discuss the week to come. Our principals, vice-principals, and supervisory staff in the DLT have been relaying these discussions to their immediate staff. While I have been sharing much of this information with our Board and staff throughout the past week, I appreciated the opportunity to have a deeper conversation in order to provide clarity around the many questions that arose from the DLT.

I will remind our parents who may be reading this communication to please contact our Communication Centre Hotline at 1-306-682-2558 with any questions or concerns. I also ask that you visit horizonsd.ca for regular updates, and follow our social media feeds at facebook.com/HorizonSD & Twitter @horizonsd205 for regular communication. Staff, be sure to check your Horizon email regularly. Families, please ensure your child’s school has your current contact information on file for any and all further communication.

For now, I will leave you with a link to Horizon’s new Learning Practice Tool. This can be found on the homepage of horizonsd.ca. Our team in Student Services, under the outstanding leadership of Katherine Oviatt has done a remarkable job of vetting and compiling resources for families that may help you engage your child(ren) in learning while schools are closed. Of course, this could never be a substitute for teacher-directed learning but maybe help for families looking to engage their children in learning activities in the home.

So finally, and most importantly, stay safe Horizon and, as much as possible stay home. You may have seen the encouraging news from BC last week, where they suggested the spread of COVID-19 has been slowed by their efforts in social distancing and other measures. Such simple things as social distancing and thorough handwashing are so critical to this fight. Of course, we also know the impact of this virus as the number of infected continues to rise in our great province and across our globe. And just today, like so many other provinces have faced, the greatest impact has been felt in the loss of the first two of our own Saskatchewan residents. Our hearts and deepest sympathies go out to their families and the families of all citizens across our province, our country, and our world who have lost their loved ones and who are ill from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. We all have a role to play to overcome this crisis. I am so proud of our team, and in the end, it is the relationships we have that will remain most important to each of us when the pandemic is finally in our past. Keep the relationships close, if even from a distance and remember, as author John Joseph Powell said, “It is an absolute human certainty that no one can know their own beauty or perceive a sense of their own worth until it has been reflected back to them in the mirror of another loving, caring human being” Thank you for doing that every day for our children, families, and each other, Horizon.

#HorizonStrong

-Kevin
    
Kevin C. Garinger  B.Ed., M.A.Ed.
Director of Education/CEO
Horizon School Division No. 205