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September 21, 2020 - a message from Kevin C. Garinger, Director of Education
September 21, 2020
The first two weeks with our children are in the “books” and there are many thoughts I have in my head that represent such responses as amazement, trust, respect, appreciation, and admiration. If I could add one word to the list that is truly reflective of what staff has done, it would be consistency. Inside our schools, there is a great deal of structure and planning that has supported the health safety of our students and staff. Consistency has been paramount as we help our students learn the routines and procedures of the classroom and hallways. Consistency has been necessary when we have our children getting onto our buses and using technology. Staff have managed these areas so very well and now consistency is our continued focus when we move to the sometimes less structured environments that occur during recesses and lunch periods. I know this is much more challenging and requires even greater degrees of consistency. Large play areas exist, and our children are wanting to see their friends from other cohorts. I want to thank each of you for your continuing efforts to keep cohorts together and to mitigate health risks by persistently enforcing the aspects of our plan related to physical distancing and limiting physical contact. As Helen Keller said, “We can do anything we want to do if we stick to it long enough.”
Monday evening, Kam Kiland, Manager of Facility Services, Justin Arendt, Superintendent of Operational Services, Sarah Reding, Chief Financial Officer, and I met with the Village of Englefeld to discuss proposals for renovations at Englefeld School. The plan is to remodel the school in such a way as to move the main office and renovate some of the current spaces and possibly add some additional space. The Village currently owns the building and we are happy to enjoy a collaborative relationship in addressing the needs of our joint-use facility. I want to thank Village of Englefeld Mayor and council as well as the administrator for their dedication to ensure the most beneficial and efficient solutions are in place to support students, staff, and the community.
On Tuesday, I joined my fellow Directors of Education and other leaders in the Education Sector for a teleconference with the Deputy Minister of Education, Rob Currie and the Chief Medical Health Officer, Dr Shahab to discuss our Education Sector Pandemic Planning. I appreciate the opportunity to share information from across the province as well as to ask Dr Shahab questions that many of our staff and families have regarding our return to the classroom.
Also Tuesday morning, I had a chance to speak with Andy Labdon of the Wadena News, for an interview regarding our Re-Entering Horizon Plan and the efforts all our Division staff engaged in to prepare for our students to return to classrooms or be supported in Learning from Home. I want to thank Andy for this great conversation, and for helping us share with his readership about the important work being done to ensure the safety of our students and staff as they return to learning.
I serve as a member of the provincial Corporate Services Team (CST), which is a subcommittee of the Response Planning Team (RPT) that has advised on some of the province’s work in Education to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The work of the CST looks at a number of areas related to the operational side of Saskatchewan’s school divisions, and advises the RPT on how best to manage those elements of our work through this pandemic. I joined the other members of the CST for a videoconference on Wednesday morning to continue these discussions.
Following conversations with my Senior Leadership Team and Central Office staff, I called a meeting with the Director’s Leadership Team (DLT), including Principals and Vice Principals, for Wednesday afternoon. I greatly appreciate that the DLT made time for this important meeting on short notice, as we had a number of critical updates and reminders to share with the team that afternoon. One area of concern for us as we address our return to learning is to ensure our student numbers are accurately reflective of the students who are in our Horizon Learning From Home School (HLFHS) or our Horizon Distance Learning Center (HDLC). This year has been a challenge like none other to accurately account for our kids while providing the proper learning supports depending on their parents’ decisions. Last week we were able to get approval for a Learning From Home School so we could place those students who need to be in our this program and to be supported by our LFH teachers. To date, we have nearly 5900 children in our schools while approximately 230 students are learning from home either through the HLFHS (K to 9) or HDLC (10 to 12). We currently have hired an additional 10.75 FTE teachers to support those families with health-related concerns who have students learning from home in Kindergarten to Grade 9. We have also increased our teaching FTE by nearly 1.0 FTE to support increases in classes being offered through distance in our Grades 10 to 12. I want to thank everyone for their work to address the needs of our students in whatever capacity you are working. We are in unprecedented times and these times speak to unprecedented measures…measures such as increases to FTE that are necessary to ensure every person’s success.
On Thursday, Horizon’s Board of Education held their first Regular Meeting of the 2020-2021 school year. This was also the first Regular Meeting we have had with Trustees joining in-person since our February meeting. Trustees and staff stayed safe by following health guidelines for small gatherings, such as face masks when social distancing could not be maintained. Among the critical conversations our Board engaged in through this meeting, we discussed our Re-Entering Horizon Plan, our Illness in Care AP, the upcoming Board elections, staffing updates, Operational Services updates, and Finance Services updates. I deeply appreciate that we could have our Trustees back in their building once again, thanks to the important health measures and our new procedures to ensure everyone’s safety.
On Friday morning, my DLT met once again to go over more information for our division and province. During this uncertain time, with new information and changes to practices, it is so critical that we have regular contact, conversations, and information sharing happening within our schools and across the division. I am beyond proud of how our staff have managed this challenging transition, and we will continue to succeed in this work because we are doing it all together.
On Friday afternoon, I joined the Board’s Governance Committee for a meeting at Central Office. This committee includes Trustees, Jennifer Lemky (Committee Chair), Christine Gradin, Paul Crow-Buffalo, Jolene Koopman, and Table Officers Jim Hack (Board Chair) and Linda Mattock (Board Vice-Chair) as ex-officio committee members. We reviewed a number of items, including items relating to the upcoming Board Election. Once again, it was great to see a number of out Trustees back in our meeting room, and I want to thank each member of this committee for their work and guidance.
Lastly this week, I am grateful to share that we have completed the Horizon School Division’s Return to Sport Protocol. This protocol will guide our safe return to school sports in the coming weeks and months. I want to thank members of my staff for their work, research, and planning to put this document together as well as the SHSAA whose Return to School Sport document combined with the Re-Open Saskatchewan Plan continues to guide most aspects of our protocol. School sports are such an important aspect of a student’s learning and certainly supports overall engagement in school. Our Return to Sport Protocol has been shared with Horizon staff and will be shared with Horizon families via email on Monday.
Have a great week and stay safe, Horizon.
Kevin C. Garinger B.Ed., M.A.Ed.
Director of Education/CEO
Horizon School Division No. 205