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Horizon School Division
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March 1, 2021 - a message from Kevin C. Garinger, Director of Education

March 02, 2021

 

Rest and play are as vital to our health as nutrition and exercise.” – Brené Brown

I hope each of you enjoyed a safe and restful Family Day and winter break, Horizon. It was certainly well-deserved. I hope each of you had an opportunity to recharge your batteries and are still feeling refreshed after the first week back with our students. It is still amazing, after all the years I've spent in education, just how much our children can re-energize us. The March drive is upon us and it appears to have come in like a lamb in most areas of our province. I think we are all grateful for the amazing weather we are experiencing now and will experience in the week ahead. Warm weather is also a good recipe for mental health.

RPT UPDATE

I recently received the most current RPT update and wanted to use this opportunity to share it with you. I have attached it to this email for your perusal.

Rapid Testing – There is a plan to use the rapid test in our schools. More will be shared in the near future but we have been told that it will be administered by our health professionals. Horizon knows first-hand the importance of this test as it has been used in circumstances where an immediate response to a potential case is necessary. Rapid testing has helped us make critical decisions with our health partners based on immediate and accurate information related to virus transmission and I am certainly glad it will be even more accessible in our school communities.

Graduation Ceremonies – I have been asked to sit on a committee with the Business Response Team of the Government of Saskatchewan to discuss 2021 graduations. As graduations are fleshed out, I will be certain to bring this information back to Horizon as well as to the other systems across the province.

Extra-Curricular Activities – Back in November, extra-curr in our schools was halted. Today’s announcement has indicated that school division authorities can consider following the public health order in place until March 19th. I will share more as soon as I have a chance to discuss this new information with the Board. 

COVID-19

So much has going on both over the break and in the first week back, including a significant Covid-19 outbreak in the community of Watrous that impacted our schools and resulted in students needing to learn from home and staff, students, and family members having to self-isolate. I value the relationships we have with our health partners and sometimes matters like these get a little complex as we try to deal with them. As you likely know, Horizon has 5 health regions (4 provincial and 1 federal) that we deal with when it comes to the pandemic. This situation extended into both Saskatoon Health and Regina Qu’Appelle Health. I am grateful there is significant communication between both health organizations as it makes sorting out how to address this matter much more fluid. Most students and all classrooms in both schools are back this week from learning from home, and we continue to express to our families the safe way we operate our schools. The work of our staff, families, and of course, our students. I want to thank both school principals and their staffs for their undeniable efforts in continuing to support learning in a very trying time.

We also continue to work with the Chief and Council from George Gordon First Nation as we work toward a return to school for all students from the Nation. As you know, George Gordon was declared an outbreak community a few months ago and they have been doing their utmost to try and get the virus in check. In the meantime, principals and staffs in Punnichy, Raymore, and GGEC have been doing an incredible job of trying to meet learning needs while buses were not running and George Gordon's was shut down. Their efforts and the efforts of our entire Horizon team in schools across our system are simply commendable. 

A LEARNING PERSPECTIVE TO CONSIDER

I spent some time just prior to the break engaging in conversations with principals and central office leadership about how best to support student learning during this challenging time. It has been stated that some children are behind in their learning. As much as there are circumstances that prevent students from being with us or continuing their learning in the way we might want them to, that the need to consider holding children back has been a provincial level conversation. The literature I have researched does not support this direction, but it is still something that warrants deep conversations. Perhaps one thing to think about for us as educators and leaders is the consideration that all children, staff, and families have learned more during this pandemic than ever before. Perhaps it is true that learning has not stopped for anyone. Having a growth mindset might focus us on this belief, that learning has continued even in the absence of a formal school environment. Again, this is something worthy of deep thought and intense discussion. I was recently provided with a perspective from literacy guru, Dr Kylene Beers and I am providing the link to her blog for you to peruse. Although it is written from an American perspective, it also has similar applications in our country and I dare say, may be paradigm-shifting.

SaskMATH

During the last number of months, Katherine Oviatt, Assistant Superintendent of Literacy, Numeracy, and Early Learning Services has been providing tremendous leadership in supporting my work as the owner of the SaskMATH Outcome. SaskMATH is a web-based resource that will support teachers and other educators in supporting effective instruction and assessment in mathematics across all curriculum. A strong focus on Indigenous education has been woven throughout the tool and most recently, Katherine and members of her team joined me in presenting the resource to the Provincial Leadership Team (PLT). The website is in the process of being translated to French and being professionally set up by a contractor to be useable in any format and on any device. I look forward to sharing the final resource in the near future, one that was created by educators and leaders from across the province, including a handful of amazing teachers from Horizon School Division.

BOARD MEETINGS

Our Board met virtually during their regular monthly meeting in February and as I always appreciate, their focus on children and ensuring the best for them and the staff was the basis for much of the discussion. We are certainly grateful they are able to meet online, as many of their committee meetings are also held virtually. Most recently, the SCC Engagement Committee met to discuss the Board’s work with SCC’s, including the approval of a handbook for election purposes. Like most of them, I look forward to the return to the boardroom but for now, we continue to be appreciative of our abilities to meet over the world wide web.

2021-22 CALENDAR

It is my intention that tomorrow, a memo will be sent to all staff and SCCs across Horizon related to the 2021-22 school year calendar. My office has been in conversations with the leadership from CUPE and the HTA and has received positive feedback on some potential changes that could better support the work of teachers and support staff. I conducted a ThoughtExchange back in December and the results of that survey spoke to the need for staff to have time in the form of preparation and for everyone to have time to support mental health needs. The first option will have a calendar that will look and feel similar to our current 2019-2020 calendar while the other option will look considerably different as we try to support the needs that were referenced. I look forward to your feedback through the voting process.

PINK SHIRT DAY

Wednesday, February 24 was Pink Shirt Day, a day to show our support for anti-bullying efforts. I thank everyone for taking part in this day by wearing pink and showing that we will not tolerate bullying in any form. During this especially challenging year, it is more important than ever to show one another that we are not alone and to celebrate kindness. For more information about this day, visit pinkshirtday.ca and bekindonline.com.

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