IntroductionHello everyone. It is has been a couple of weeks since I’ve sent out TWIH and I apologize for the delay in sharing the amazing things that have been going on across Horizon School Division. It has been a busy few weeks for all of us and one thing that is critical is the need for communication. Communicating keeps us aware of the news and happenings across our system and with so many changes occurring every day, it also keeps us grounded in the expectations that exist within our province and world. I have continued to share with principals and system leaders on a weekly basis the nature of the challenges but have missed the opportunity to share directly with you. However, as George Bernard Shaw once said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place”. Well, there is no illusion. In the busyness of our world, it is still just as easy as reminding people that we are all one team doing the work necessary to ensure our children are educated in a safe and healthy environment. I have seen this environment firsthand as I have travelled to schools the last few weeks to review Learning Improvement Plans with principals. I have watched caretakers, teachers, and support staff, bus drivers and superintendents sanitizing to ensure our children and colleagues are safe. Each of you has done this while carrying out your regular responsibilities but in it, you have kept this pandemic at bay and our schools open for much, if not all of the year. For that and everything you do to ultimately support our children, THANK YOU! I know I say it often…I try to say it to each of you when I get the chance to see you in schools because you need to know that you are appreciated. You have done hero work all year and now, with the end in sight and a future that is so bright, you can and should relish in the amazing work you have done. I want to end this introduction with a quote from Albert Einstein who really sums up how you should feel. He said, “I was very pleased with your kind letter. Until now I never dreamed of being something like a hero. But since you've given me the nomination, I feel that I am one.” Feel you are one…because you are.Kamloops, BCI know each of our hearts sank at the heartbreaking discovery of 215 children in an unmarked grave at the site of the former Kamloops Residential School. Simply put, it shook our nation and each of us will feel the aftershock for weeks, months, and years to come. We join in mourning this tragedy and our flags in Horizon schools and facilities will remain at half-mast until further notice. On Tuesday, June 1st, all of Horizon was asked to wear orange to honour the lives of those lost so young. As I have travelled our schools, I continue to see the colour being worn by our youth and adults alike. The damage done by Canada’s Residential School System reaches across nations, communities, and generations. We need to honour the victims, survivors, and family members by learning all we can about the atrocities of our past. Understanding the scope and the harm is the only way for true healing and reconciliation to occur. A few resources to learn more about Residential Schools and Reconciliation can be found on our website, here and I encourage you to share others I know you have with Assistant Superintendent of Indigenous Services, Bryan McNabb.Pride MonthThe month of June pays honour to Pride and May 31 – June 5 was Humboldt and Area Pride Week. Pride Week is one way for us to demonstrate to our community members – and, most importantly, to our young people – that we welcome and celebrate all identities and cultures. This is a powerful message for our students, and I want to offer my sincere thanks to the organizers and participants of Humboldt and Area Pride Week. Happy Pride to our LGBTQ2+ students, staff, and community members across Horizon School Division and beyond.COVID-19 UpdatesWe continue to join the rest of the Education Sector for pandemic planning updates and for the latest news regarding COVID-19 in Saskatchewan. Dr Shahab, Assistant Deputy Minister of Health, Rebecca Carter, and Deputy Minister of Education, Donna Johnson continue to meet with Directors from across the province to share these updates on a weekly basis. The updates provided also include any changes to regulations including vaccination rollouts for 12-17-year-old students and rapid testing. I have to admit I was extremely pleased to hear when the rapid testing regulations were lifted and the test was able to be conducted by staff on themselves without any level of training. I certainly agree that this test is just another layer of the swiss cheese model that helps us prevent the spread of the virus. In the last couple of weeks, kits have been sent to each school in Horizon so teachers and support staff can test themselves as they see fit. In the future, my hope would be that every staff member in Horizon has a kit to use as they deem necessary and my office will continue to work toward this process. The test is simple and very non-invasive and provides the user with a result of either positive or negative. If you test positive, please contact 811 and seek further attention.“The test of character is not persistence when you expect a light at the end of the tunnel. The true test is performance and persistence when you see no light coming”. This quote by James Arthur Ray truly highlights the character of our Board and each of our staff, students, families, and communities across Horizon. There has been darkness through this pandemic. Our students and families have lost a lot. But somehow, in the middle of it, you have persevered and provided a wonderful learning environment for our children. You have turned these dark times into light by reminding each other of what we need to be grateful for, even when it was hard to hear or see. And because of this, we are seeing a light that is getting brighter with every passing day. Already our province has seen significant change regarding restrictions for Covid-19 and as early as July 11, 2021, masking in public buildings may no longer be mandated. This is because of each of you and your perseverance through these challenging times. Again, what better words can be said than THANK YOU. Of course, we are not there yet and so I also thank you for keeping up this good fight until we are once again safe in our society to let down our guard. The pandemic will not be over but we have put ourselves in a place where the future of what we do in our schools and across our province will look much more like the normal we have been used to! As we move toward this light, keep in mind the things that you have done that have kept our children and each other out of harm's way as well as the things that this chaotic time have forced us to do that we will never change. We have been asking these questions of principals and others and I encourage that discussion at each of our schools and work buildings.Graduation CeremoniesHorizon’s first graduation ceremonies took place Friday, June 4th and I was lucky enough to join Ituna School for their celebration. Our representatives from the Board and my office joined celebrations at Imperial School, Lake Lenore School, Quill Lake School, and Winston High School. Congratulations to these Horizon graduates, and thank you to the students, staff, and community members who helped make these celebrations a success.And Finally…This year has often felt like a marathon, so it may be hard to believe, but we only have a couple of weeks left in June. There have been many ups and downs, challenges and successes, but we are getting through it because we have been together, even when we’ve been apart. We have lost so much but we have learned so much, and we will be stronger on the other side!Have a great week and stay safe, Horizon. #HorizonStrong- Kevin
Kevin C. Garinger B.Ed., M.A.Ed.