WELCOME TO THE 2021-22 SCHOOL YEAR, HORIZON SCHOOL DIVISION!! I am so excited that we are back in the business of learning. There is truly no greater responsibility that can be bestowed on staff than supporting the learning needs of each child in a school system. I think Malcolm X, famed human rights activist during the civil rights movement, said it extremely well when he spoke of education this way, “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today”. The future of our world is in the hands of each of you, and I know our Board, and I could not imagine a greater team taking on this responsibility for the sake of children.With great thanks to each of you reading this, Horizon had a great first day of school. You continue to work so hard to keep one another safe and healthy so that our focus can remain on student learning. We head into another year of school with renewed energy and a clear focus on our 3 goals of Safe & Caring Schools, Literacy & Numeracy, and Graduation Rates.Following a year like no other and beginning another school year under the reality of COVID-19, our principals, teachers, support staff, central office staff, and board have done and continue to put the needs of students, families, and communities first. Words can never truly express the appreciation owed to everyone who has worked so hard to wage war against the virus, and that work paid off in significant success in schools across Saskatchewan. Of the 5920 cases of Covid-19 that were associated with school divisions, 4980 of them were able to be traced. Of the almost 5000 cases where determinable acquisition sources occurred, less than 15% resulted from some form of transmission in schools. Most of the school-associated cases who acquired the virus did so outside the school environment. This data certainly demonstrates the effectiveness of the practices and protocols that students, families, and staff engaged in to control the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. There is much work left to do, but again, I could not think of a better group of leaders to take on the challenge.
After a great few days back, I hope and trust you had a wonderful and relaxing long weekend. I certainly recognize it was not so relaxing for some as a few of our principals, staff, and families were dealing with the first cases in the 2021-22 school year of Covid-19 associated with our schools. The cases in question have impacted three schools, and each situation has warranted a unique response to control the spread. We will continue to monitor these schools closely while recognizing that what is most important is the health and safety of those impacted directly and indirectly by the virus. We believe our plan, referred to as the Horizon School Division Covid-19 Strategy, is well-established to guide our work toward continued health and safety for everyone in our system. We will adjust the plan and the levels as necessary to keep our children learning in our schools and provide them opportunities during and outside the school day. Thank you to each of you for your daily efforts to support this important moral imperative.In the week before school began, we held our first special Board meeting, our first Director’s Leadership Team (DLT) meeting, and our first regular Board meeting. Much of these discussions revolved around our 2021-2022 COVID-19 Strategy, and I want to thank the Board, central office leadership team, and principals for their invaluable contributions to the plan. That Thursday, we also held our annual Bus Driver Collaborative Learning Day. I want to thank our drivers, mechanic staff, and the Transportation Services team for their planning and participation. Transportation Services provides an invaluable service to our students and schools by transporting children safely and timely every day. As you know, Safe & Caring is one of our foundational goals at Horizon School Division, so we greatly appreciate the work of our drivers, mechanics, and central office staff, who ensure that this goal becomes a reality for our children and students.Last Monday, the Horizon Teachers’ Association held their annual convention. We are grateful for a successful virtual convention this year, and I want to thank the HTA executive, including President, Mr Gerard Frison, for their efforts in planning this important event.
I want to close this first week back by offering my sincere condolences to Day Star First Nation and all the friends and family of Elder Irvin Buffalo. Elder Buffalo was an incredible man and Horizon had the great pleasure of knowing him personally, partnering with him, and hearing his wisdom on many occasions. His loss is felt deeply, and our hearts are with everyone mourning.Have a great year…and stay healthy and safe, Horizon.- Kevin