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Horizon School Division
Creating a better world, one student at a time.
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October 26, 2020 - a message from Kevin C. Garinger, Director of Education

October 26, 2020

This has certainly been one of those This Week in Horizon’s I was hoping not to have the need to write. Of course, with the case numbers increasing in our province, Horizon School Division has now joined multiple others who have a positive case of COVID-19 within one of our schools. We were made aware of the positive case at Viscount Central School on Friday, October 23, and we began the important work of contacting Public Health, providing them with information, and supporting them by providing assistance in the contact tracing process. The practice included communicating with families in the school, and other schools where there was a connection to the case.

There are many things I think about. First and foremost, the individual who tested positive. Beyond everything, I know I join with all others when I say that I am hoping for a swift and speedy recovery. As I think about this individual, I think of five other young adults in and around Humboldt who have also contracted the disease but who are no longer directly connected to our schools. So, I think about a message to our young adults. I remind them to continue to exercise great care and caution in terms of where to go and what to do. There are many things we can’t control in our lives. But the few things we can are easily the most significant. These are our attitudes and our actions. Continue to be as wise as you have for the last 7+ months of this pandemic. I know socialization is needed. Take caution and use precautions in how you address it. Remember to follow the health orders and you will keep yourself and your families and friends safe.

I think about the potential close contacts of the individual, both adults and youth. Through their eyes, I think about the continuation of learning and the need to make it a focus when there is an uncertainty that only comes with waiting for answers. I think about the work of our principals, vice principals, professional and support staff and the planning they have done along with our central office staff, to try to prevent a situation like this from happening…but also to be prepared for it. We are well situated to ensure learning continues...and yet, all that really matters right now is that people are safe and healthy. We can plan for safety and we can plan for procedures that ensure learning continues in any environment, but we are never fully prepared for some of the panic that results from a traumatic situation. We have all experienced trauma. I believe we have learned that traumatic situations have no rulebooks to follow. We can practice what to do on an airplane “in the event of a loss in cabin pressure”. We know the procedures and routines and follow them as the attendants remind us. But when there is a loss in cabin pressure, the true angst comes not from lack of preparation, but for the natural response that fear brings. The panic is real.

I believe it is our job to try and ensure we help everyone panic slowly. Horizon students, families, and staff have been exemplary in their cooperation and support of our new protocols and practices to mitigate the risks of COVID-19 spreading within our classrooms, buildings, facilities, and communities. I cannot thank each of you enough. Our partners in the sectors of Health and Education have offered their assistance, guidance, collaboration, and support in planning for and addressing these issues as they arise. I am so grateful for everyone we work with and everyone we work for in Horizon School Division. We have prepared and we have planned and this will help us in mitigating the spread of the virus.

At this time, all Horizon Schools will be open for students on Tuesday, October 27. As per Horizon’s school-year calendar, Monday is a Collaborative Learning Day for staff and a day of no school for students. Since Friday, Public Health has been conducting their contact tracing process, and has been contacting the individuals they deem to be close contacts to a known COVID-19 diagnosis. They will provide further direction as needed.

As a school division, and as global citizens, we have a shared responsibility to help stop the spread of this pandemic. To everyone reading this, thank you for the sacrifices you have made and the efforts you have put forward to that end. Nothing about this pandemic over the past several months has been easy. Few things have been entirely straightforward or without complication. But we are still in this together, and I am incredibly grateful for that.

At the same time schools are open, we will be considering the implications of continuing sport in our system. This will not be an easy decision as it was not an easy decision when sport was reopened. The mental and physical health of our students and staff is paramount. There are benefits that activity such as sport and extra-curricular bring. But these benefits cannot outweigh the potential risk of contracting COVID-19. More information will be shared with you regarding our direction for Horizon School Division as soon as possible.

We continue to require that students and staff who are experiencing signs or symptoms associated with COVID-19 remain home and contact HealthLine 811 or your health care provider. Of course, if you are experiencing a medical emergency, contact 911. Again, thank you for your due diligence.

Last week, I had a number of meetings with Horizon staff and external partners to discuss emergent items and areas related to our ongoing work across the system. Among these, I met with Medical Health Officers for our now-regular conversations to gain further insight and information regarding COVID-19 and schools. I joined our Ministry and my counterparts from other school divisions for a conference call to discuss the provincial Safe Schools Plan. I met with our provincial Student Transportation Working Advisory Group to continue our discussions and review of busing practices in Saskatchewan. I joined Board Chairs and Directors of Education for a conference call with our Chief Medical Health Officer, Dr Shahab to discuss our pandemic processes and to hear from him as he shares updates and direction. I held meetings with my Senior Leadership Team of Superintendents and Assistant Superintendents, and my Director’s Leadership Team of principals, vice principals, and central office staff. In each of the meetings I have been a part of, the common theme is collaboration. People coming together to share information, anticipate problems, and develop solutions. It is energizing and inspiring to be part of so many discussions among professionals doing their very best for the people we serve.

I want to remind you to please feel free to contact my office with any questions or concerns. In this time of uncertainty, open, two-way communication is critical for the health and safety of everyone in our schools, facilities, and communities.

Finally, Monday is our provincial election and 13 of our schools are acting as polling stations this year. This has been a unique situation that has become a requirement due to the pandemic. I want to thank our principals and staff for their help in the preparations for the election and Dr Michael Boda, Chief Electoral Officer for Saskatchewan and all his staff who have worked closely with us to ensure the election process can effectively and safely move forward.

Have a great week and stay safe, Horizon.

- Kevin

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