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Horizon School Division
Creating a better world, one student at a time.
News Item

November 2, 2020 - a message from Kevin C. Garinger, Director of Education

November 03, 2020

Introduction

I hope and trust everyone had a safe and healthy Halloween this past weekend. I know the kids were out in full force and were eager to gather the generous gifts from all those who were eager to contribute to their efforts. It’s an exciting time for children and was certainly an exciting few days in our schools leading up to Saturday. I had the pleasure of seeing some of the video costume parades that the schools shared with me. They were outstanding and certainly demonstrated the great efforts principals and staffs went to so that our kids were able to show off their costumes. As we go through the school year and deal with new realities around celebrations like Halloween and the upcoming Remembrance Day, I am inspired by everyone in our system and communities who are creative and adaptable in their celebrations and commemorations, while maintaining safety and adhering to guidelines from Health. Whether it’s building a candy chute on your front porch to keep your distance while still taking part in the trick or treating tradition, or setting up a live stream for community members to join in your school’s Remembrance Day ceremony, you continue to do amazing work to ensure our students have opportunities for safe, fun, and memorable experiences.

Second Case of COVID-19 in Horizon Schools

Horizon School Division has now had our second confirmed case of COVID-19 in a school. We were made aware of a case at Cudworth School last Friday. I have to say that we are very fortunate to have our region’s Directors of Primary Health, Kelly Tokarchuk, Lorie Mokelki, Holly Srochenski and Kayla Burechailo routinely support us in our work. Kayla joined us for a quick Webex meeting with Cudworth staff on Friday afternoon. She was able to answer many of the questions staff had and also provided additional information as requested. This is just another learning for me as it will become a continued practice when there is a case. Our staff in Cudworth asked some excellent questions, and Kayla’s time, expertise, and partnership continues to be greatly appreciated, along with all those involved in the response including the office of the Medical Health Officers and Public Health. We wish for a speedy recovery for the individual, and all those affected by this illness across our province, country, and world.

The health and safety of our students, staff, and communities continues to be our primary focus, and I want to once again thank everyone in Horizon – within our buildings and outside our buildings – for your efforts to help mitigate the spread of this virus.

School Sports

Tied directly to this was the announcement regarding sport. Based on our efforts across our system and the fact that our processes are part of the reason for the mitigation of the spread of the virus, we have felt it appropriate to lift the pause on sport activity in our school division. Due to the recent case in Cudworth, we look forward to their ability to resume sport the following week. We will continue to monitor closely what is happening across our division and make adjustments as necessary, including pushing pause again. I have requested that each school sports team ensure the general and sport-specific protocols on the Return to Sport are reviewed once again in great detail. We have also required that before each practice and game, each athlete, coach, and spectator (where applicable) identify and document whether they have been in close contact with someone who may or does have Covid-19 or whether they have any symptoms of Covid-19. This is an expected practice for everyone prior to coming to school. However, it is just another way we are trying to ensure the safety of all as we continue to offer opportunities to our kids.

The Week it Was

Last week, the first of our Board Election advanced polls were held in communities across the system. Our advanced polls are on different times and dates in each community with an election poll, with the last one being held on November 5. The full list of these advanced polls can be found on horizonsd.ca/board/electioninfo. Much work has gone into planning and preparing for the advanced polls and Election Day polls on November 9. We had Deputy Returning Officers and Poll Workers in our office last Monday for training and to receive their supplies. I want to thank everyone across our system who has been supporting this important work for local governance and the democratic process.

Among my meetings last week, I spent time with my Senior Leadership Team (SLT), met with Public Health officials, discussed planning for our new Board orientation that will take place after the election, and visited a few of our schools for meetings with principals. On Wednesday, Superintendent of Operational Services/COO, Justin Arendt, Manager of Facility Services, Kam Kiland, and Superintendent of Finance Services/CFO, and I met with government personnel to discuss the new school project for Lanigan. This is a very exciting project for Horizon, and I look forward to sharing more details as they become finalized.

On Thursday, following meetings with Board Chairs and Directors from across the sector, and a meeting with the provincial Corporate Services Team, I met with William Derby School teacher and Horizon Teachers’ Association President, Gerard Frison. We always have a lot to discuss, and that is even truer in our current times. Like our other membership and their leadership, I appreciate Gerard, the HTA Executive, and the work they do to deepen the understandings necessary to help our system become even more effective.

On Friday, I met with my Director’s Leadership Team (DLT) to start the day, as we began a book study of Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead. We also had a chance to share important information and updates and had discussions about various items of importance in our system.

Most of the afternoon on Friday was spent responding to and communicating about the COVID-19 case in our school. We have so many incredible partners in this work, and I cannot thank each of them enough. The unfortunate truth of our current situation is that these cases are likely to continue popping up in our Division from time to time, and responding to these issues and hearing about them will begin to feel somewhat normal. This does not mean, however, that we let our guard down in our mitigation efforts. We must all continue to do our part to stop or slow the spread of this virus, which includes staying home when sick and calling 811 or your family doctor for further direction. It includes wearing masks in our schools and other public spaces when we cannot maintain a 2-meter distance. It includes all the hygiene efforts I’m sure you get sick of me repeating. And perhaps most importantly, it includes looking out for one another and having compassion and empathy for one another in this difficult time.

A Message from an MHO

When I was speaking to Dr Tabien, Medical Health Officer for Saskatoon Health Region, she put it this way for me, and I think it rings so very true for all of us. She said, “I treat everyone around me as if I have Covid-19”. I don’t think a truer application of our work around health could be stated. So when we are in staff rooms, and we are talking in hallways or workrooms, we need to remember these words. The current challenge regarding the Cudworth situation is that there appears there may be no known host from which the individual contracted the disease. Like many of us, the person follows the health guidelines to a tee. The truth is, we may not know we have the disease until we get symptoms a few days after we are considered contagious. We need always to remember this when we are around each other, as well as our kids. Please consider this example…

Example to Consider

I am a staff member in the school and I consider each of the other staff members parts of my bubble so I don’t wear a mask around them and don’t worry about being close to them for a set period of time. And now…I get sick. This is our reality.

Everyone on that staff is considered a close contact if they have been within 2 meters of me for a combined amount of time of 15 minutes over a few days, mask or no mask. If the majority or all of the staff are considered close contacts, the school will be shut down and everyone will be learning from home for 14 days from the last potential contact with me.

The caution we need to seek comes with staying out of bubbles or only being in them for short periods of time (each of us with a mask). This means only spending short bursts of time, with masks on, in eachother’s bubble. It means eating and talking and collaborating 6 feet away from each other. The last thing we want is for any of us to get the disease, but the chances become more we let our guard down. As cases increase, our due diligence is even more critical.

The pandemic is impacting each of us differently, and the kindness each of us displays goes a long way to help one another through. I have heard it said that we might not all be in the same boat, but we are all navigating the same seas. Thank you for your continued efforts to help and support each other and our students in these daily efforts.  

Christmas Hamper Project – Record Numbers

Finally, I want to share that we have achieved another record this year. We have, by far, the highest number of families and children being supported by our Christmas Hamper Project. I want to thank our principals and their staffs for helping to get this information to our office. In these difficult times, I am certain we all expected the needs to grow…and they have. In the past, we have had other organizations and individuals who so generously contribute to this project, and I want to thank them for once again thinking of our kids and families in this time of need. At this time, we have had incredible donations from the likes of the SCC from HPS who donated $1000.00 to this cause and the Imperial staff who challenged other staffs across Horizon with a donation of $250.00 to the project. On behalf of our kids in need and their families, thank you.

Anyone can make a personal donation to this worthwhile cause through either a payroll deduction over one pay period or multiple pay periods (contact Corinne Thoms at Corinne.thoms@horizonsd.ca) or by donating in whatever manner you choose by connecting with my office and Marni Sogge at marni.sogge@horizonsd.ca. It is hard to think that so many are in need, but I feel pretty fortunate that people are so giving during this wonderful time of the year. In doing so, we are making it wonderful for so many others.  


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