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Horizon School Division
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October 19, 2020 - a message from Kevin C. Garinger, Director of Education

October 19, 2020

The first impacts of COVID-19 have been felt in Horizon School Division, impacting instruction at Foam Lake Elementary School and George Gordon Education Center, as well as postponing a sporting event and an outdoor graduation celebration for Foam Lake Composite School. There is a great deal we continue to learn through these challenging times, including how important our relationships are with our colleagues in Saskatchewan Health. As the lead contact for Horizon School Division, I have become very aware of how important it is that we communicate directly with our Health colleagues as we learn information about COVID-19 cases that impact our Division. Our significant geography has tied us into 5 health regions and four integrated health zones. This means when a positive COVID-19 test occurs in Regina that may directly impact one or more of our communities, the information on the case that is shared with our schools and with my office from those who are impacted may not be understood by Health. This potentially unknown connection to our communities and schools makes it imperative that we share with Health, so they too can understand the impact in our Division. The same applies to situations that occur within other regions across our province like Saskatoon. Working together and having individuals who are willing to share their personal challenges regarding contacts or illness in families allows us to address these matters as effectively and timely as possible. We are held to strict confidence in terms of sharing information and there is certainly never an obligation for anyone to share with their employer or with their school principal that they are connected to a case. But when this information is shared, we can react quickly to help each other control the potential spread of the disease, again, with the highest regard for confidentiality. Although the most current school closures were only precautionary in nature, they resulted from individuals who were willing to share their situations and allowing us to work with the Medical Health Officers and Public Health to make the best decisions possible for all involved. All this said, what is most difficult is that there are people who are having to live through COVID-19 and that already some of our students and staff are required to remain away from our Horizon family in order to quarantine for a minimum of 14 days. I know you join with me as we think about all those who are sick and quarantining during this challenging time. We hope for speedy recoveries and speedy returns to our schools.

On this note, I wanted to share some further understandings with you. When we hear of a COVID-19 positive case, the first thing that occurs is the review by public health of all those who are considered close contacts. Sometimes, public health is not able to make these connections as quickly as possible because of the number of cases so any who believe they are close contacts should self-isolate immediately. When health does make contact, the close contact will be required to quarantine for 14 days from the last date of contact with the positive case. This becomes even more pronounced in a home where a parent may be positive, and it becomes impossible to self-isolate. This happens when a parent is not able to avoid being away from their child(ren)…something that would be incredibly hard on anyone. If this is the case, the child who may even be school-aged, may need to quarantine for an additional 14 days from the last day of quarantine for their parent. Of course, we are thankful there are may great supports for families, and I know that Primary Health and their Directors can provide support during these difficult times.

If a close contact is required to self-quarantine, a close contact of the close contact is not required to quarantine. I will use an example of a household where both husband and wife are teachers. If the husband were declared a close contact of a positive case, the husband would need to self-isolate for fourteen days while the wife would only need to self-monitor and could go to work. If the husband became symptomatic and the wife was declared a close contact, she would likely need to self-isolate until such time as the husband was declared negative. Even though the husband was now negative, he would still be required to self-isolate for the remainder of the 14-day quarantine period. The wife would then be able to go back to self-monitoring and to go back to school. If the husband was found to be positive, anyone including the wife may become a close contact and they would then be required to self-isolate for 14 days and any of their close contacts would become close contacts of a close contact. There is so much to understand but close contacts will ultimately be declared by Public Health and we are grateful to them for all their work to address this work in as timely a fashion as possible. The more we can do to help, the better we can try to eliminate the spread of the disease.

As we left a wonderful long weekend behind, our Joint Operations Committee (JOC) held their most recent meeting last Tuesday. The committee, which includes Trustees and senior leadership from both Horizon and Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools, oversees the operation of Humboldt Collegiate Institute in a unique joint structure that allows two school divisions to operate a single school. As with all areas of our system, the JOC had much to discuss in this time of new challenges and procedures.

Horizon’s Board was together (some physically, some remotely) for their final regular meeting before the upcoming Board elections. A major discussion topic for the meeting was our Re-Entering Horizon Plan and the ongoing work of our safe return to school in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. We also discussed our current enrolment numbers, Human Resource Services updates, the upcoming Saskatchewan School Boards Association annual general meeting, Operational Services updates and discussions regarding transportation, as well as a number of other important items. As this was the final meeting before the end of our current Board’s term, we closed the meeting with many thanks and well-wishes.

In addition to the 6 Trustees who will be returning to their roles by acclamation, and one call for further nominations, we have 7 Subdivisions that will be going to an election. Our Returning Officer for this election, CFO, Sarah Reding has shared polling locations, and dates for advanced polls. These polling locations, along with candidates in each Subdivision, can be found on our website, at horizonsd.ca/Board/ElectionInfo. If you would be interested in working at any of these polling locations, you can contact Sarah via 2020elections@horizonsd.ca for more information on compensation and training.

I joined a couple of meetings on Thursday via video or teleconference. First, I joined a Board Chairs and Directors conference call, and a meeting. In the afternoon, I joined a meeting between school division personnel and Public Health officials, to continue our ongoing discussions related to school operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To begin the day last Friday, I held a meeting with my Director’s Leadership Team (DLT). We had much to discuss, including our ongoing work to keep our schools healthy and safe for students, staff, and community members. Probably the most powerful discussion was centered on what went well and what was necessary to consider as a couple of our schools dealt with closure and the potential implementation of contingency plans. I want to thank our school staff and administrators for doing so much to ensure we are prepared for numerous circumstances in these uncertain times. We have already been through so much these past several months, and we know we will be through a great deal more. One thing I do know is that we will continue the course, continue to learn, and continue to work together in ultimately supporting one another in addressing the spread of this disease.

Have a great week and stay healthy and safe, Horizon.

- Kevin

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