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January 11, 2021 - a message from Kevin C. Garinger, Director of Education
January 11, 2021
Happy New Year, Horizon School Division! The first week of 2021 is now behind us, and as much as we hoped 2021 would bring us a new sense of calm in our world, it hasn’t quite met that promise…yet. We witnessed great unrest in the political arena in the US and Canada, on Capitol Hill and in vacation locations. The newest strain of the Coronavirus has now infiltrated Canada. Our own system was hit hard by significant cases of Covid-19, right from George Gordon to Wakaw, from Holdfast to Humboldt to Strasbourg. We could get buried in the nearly horrific circumstances we began the year off with if we don’t remember the things that make it all worthwhile. Easily the greatest part of 2021 (and I know it is always this way for my Board and me) is that we welcomed students and staff back from the holidays on Monday, January 4th. We have hoped that each of you safely enjoyed your very well-deserved break. I know my break was incredibly quiet and so, like many of you, I did not get to see my own kids or grandchild in person over the break. Instead, like most, I have made sacrifices this holiday for a future that will be so much brighter.
I want to reiterate what I shared regarding each of your efforts to meet the needs of students during 2020. I have said time and again that you, our front-line workers and those who support the front line, are heroes and heroines. You have gone above and beyond in putting the needs of others ahead of your own. And like most who are heroic, we continue to need to exercise these types of efforts in an ongoing manner.
As we continue into January, our work managing health and safety protocols will be likely more critical than it ever has. Following our holiday break, there is even more need to monitor our situation and practices closely. As we have seen with an enormous outbreak in the town of Wakaw and other similar challenges on George Gordon First Nation, our communities continue to be challenged by COVID-19. Each of us plays a critical role in supporting the efforts to mitigate the spread in our communities and schools. To help this effort, we have been given some good news. Our three-ply, Horizon masks have been determined to be the next best option to surgical or medical masks in supporting students and staff's safety. You may have heard recently that the Ministry is ordering the disposable medical masks for staff and students and we should have our supply in early February. The Ministry is also ordering additional three-ply cloth masks, similar to what we ordered this year, and adding to our supply of face shields. I know we have a great deal of supply on hand but knowing what we know about the time it will take to get through this pandemic, I am certain we will need everything we can get. Very soon, a training video on the donning, doffing, and wearing of the medical grade disposable masks will be out for review. We have been told that if staff wear the masks with shields, even a close contact exposure can eliminate the individual from being close contact. Like the Swiss cheese analogy you may have seen, masking and shields and washing and sanitizing and physical distancing all work together to help control the spread of the virus. Nothing is likely 100%, but the more we put in place, the more we can mitigate risk.
In saying all of this, I can’t help but think of the people in the communities in our system and beyond who have either contracted the virus or who have been impacted as a family member or a friend of someone who has contracted the virus and who is either suffering or paid the ultimate price of loss of life. Each of you is in my thoughts and prayers every day.
Education leaders from across the province continue to work with our partners in Health to ensure our students and staff's highest degree of safety. Last Tuesday, I began the day with an Education sector pandemic planning meeting. Typically, these weekly meetings are with Dr Shahab, but he was unavailable. As we have these discussions, one thing is abundantly clear from all parties. If at all possible, our children need to be in school. I know I will never be able to say “thank you” enough to express gratitude to everyone who is making it possible for students to continue to learn in our schools. Remarkably, the transmission rates within our schools are non-existent. This means that if someone has the virus, it is not being transferred within our school settings. It is a true testament to everyone working together to protect our world by “treating others like ‘I’ have the virus”.
I then joined Assistant Superintendent of Literacy, Numeracy, and Early Learning Services, Katherine Oviatt and Math Coach, Lana Steiner to discuss our ongoing work helping develop the SaskMATH resource to support Saskatchewan teachers in mathematics curriculum delivery. Under Katherine’s leadership, the resource is clearly taking on a powerful look with literally hundreds of pages of supportive documentation and links to meet teacher need. I look forward to sharing the final draft in the upcoming weeks, once it has been vetted.
My morning on Thursday was occupied by a meeting with my fellow Directors of Education from across Saskatchewan, and a meeting with the Corporate Services Team of the RPT. I am proud to make up part of our province’s Corporate Services Team, as a subcommittee of the provincial Response Planning Team, which guides our sector’s pandemic planning. I then travelled to Rosthern to view one of the newest schools in the province and gain some perspective on what had gone well with that project and what things they would like to see change. Rosthern is only in their first year of operation and is certainly a powerful design to consider for meeting the future needs of Lanigan and area, as well as Horizon, as a whole.
We began the day on Friday morning with a meeting of my Director’s Leadership Team (DLT) or principals, vice principals, and central office personnel. We had several important items to share throughout this first DLT meeting of the 2021 school year. I know staffs will hear about this from principals so I won’t share that here. Following the DLT, I continued my meetings, first in the office with Darrell Paproski, Superintendent of Student Services and Jason Neville, Assistant Superintendent of Student Services and finally in Imperial School where I had the pleasure to see many of the staff and had a chance to meet with principal Carol Baade.
As we head into the second week of January, I want to highlight that we do have so much to look forward to in 2021. I know there will be challenges, regardless of the pandemic, they always exist. But we will continue to learn and to ensure our children can learn in a safe and healthy environment, no matter what the circumstances. Vaccines and other developments offer the genuine promise of a return to an adjusted normal that is certainly becoming clearer as we look toward the “Horizon”.
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