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Horizon School Division
Creating a better world, one student at a time.
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September 15, 2021 - a message from Kevin C. Garinger, Director of Education

September 15, 2021

INTRODUCTION

I certainly hope each of you enjoyed your labour day weekend and you got some time to enjoy the wonderful weather. The first full week of the 2021=22 school year is behind us and I know it has been wonderful to have our children back in the swing of things. Having been in some of our schools and having talked with principals and staff, everyone is appreciating the face-to-face learning opportunities that exist. Unfortunately, like all of you, I am also only too aware of the impact that Covid-19 is having on some of our schools so soon into the school year. It has backed a lot of things up and has required us to pivot in relation to some of our protocols in these schools. We have also had to adjust in relation to extra-curricular activity, strengthening practices and adding restrictions as necessary. I know each of us wants normal and we certainly had high hopes heading into this year. However, the pandemic is real, and it is far from over. We are continuing to closely monitor each school and community and will always be prepared to address a situation at a higher level and with greater restrictions with a view to protecting our children, our staff, and our families.

At the same time, I want to thank each of you, our staff, for the amazing work you are doing to try and mitigate against contracting the virus. Your guard is not down. You have been ensuring that physical distancing is maintained as much as possible and have established effective cohorting practices throughout the day. Handwashing, sanitizing, and masking (where required) continue to be important aspects of the Swiss cheese model of trying to stop viral transmission. If you imagine a small block of swiss cheese that has holes throughout it, the more layers of the cheese that are added to that original block, the more difficult it is for the virus to spread from person to person. We are trying to prevent even a first infection but community transmission is occurring and our children are acquiring the virus. As I am writing this on Tuesday night, we have just been told that 101 cases are in children under 12. That said, we have yet to be made aware of transmission in the schools because of the excellent work each of you, your students, and their parents are doing each and every day. I truly cannot thank you enough.

PUBLIC HEALTH ORDER - September 13, 2021

Our provincial reality is that there is a high rate of COVID-19. In fact, we have hit highs daily case counts in this province never before reached. On Sunday, the official provincial Health Order was released and came into effect Monday. You can read Dr Shahab’s Order HERE and I urge you to take a close look at its contents. There is a section that relates directly to education (and daycares) and we are meeting with senior officials in the province to make sure we have a clear understanding and direction related to the Order.

We have had roughly a dozen schools impacted so far, and our thoughts are with all those individuals impacted for a speedy recovery. We wish to remind parents/guardians, as well as any staff/visitors/volunteers, and all staff to continuously monitor for any signs or symptoms of COVID-19. If you or your child have any symptoms associated with COVID-19, please call HealthLine at 811 and remain at home. You can find more information here on self-monitoring from the Government of Saskatchewan website.

September 7 to September 10

Following the Labour Day weekend, we began last week with several meetings, including an agenda meeting to prepare for the upcoming regular Board meeting. As always, Board Chair, Jim Hack, Vice Chair, Linda Mattock, joined us for this meeting. Also in attendance were Superintendent of Finance Services/CFO, Sandy Gessner, Superintendent of Operational Services/COO, Justin Arendt, Deputy Director, Randy MacLEAN, Executive Assistant, Marni Sogge, and Communication Services Officer, Lance Hiltz.

On Wednesday evening, we hosted a Volleyball Officials Clinic to prepare for the upcoming season. I want to thank all who were in attendance for giving their time and effort to support opportunities for the sport of volleyball. As this clinic was held virtually, I also want to thank Horizon’s Information Services team and my executive assistant Marni Sogge for supporting the process and the technology needed to make this clinic a success for our virtual attendees.

On Thursday morning, I joined a meeting for Board Chairs for an update from the Saskatchewan School Boards Association. I always appreciate the chance to take part in these important provincial meetings. For most of the rest of the day, I joined an executive meeting with the League of Educational Administrators, Directors, and Superintendents (LEADS). I am proud to serve as President-Elect for this group of dedicated educational leaders in our province.

I took a break from my LEADS meeting on Thursday for a short central office staff meeting, where I shared that our Communication Services Officer, Lance Hiltz, will be leaving us for another opportunity at the end of the month. Lance will be working with the STF so for many of us, this will not be goodbye but rather see you later. He has been an extremely dedicated employee and I certainly cannot begin to thank him for his commitment to Horizon, its children, staff, and families. He has left big shoes to fill and that is always a great place to leave an organization as it means you have been an exceptional employee. As much as it is sad to see him go, we are happy for him and know he will do a great job with the new role.

After my LEADS meeting, I met with my Senior Leadership Team to make adjustments to the Return to Sport protocol. I want to thank the staff across Horizon including Brian Grest, Katherine Oviatt, and Randy MacLEAN for doing a lot of the heavy lifting on the original and adjusted contents within the document.  

On Thursday evening, Horizon hosted an information night for families of students who are Learning from Home. This was an opportunity to share expectations and allow caregivers to ask questions and learn about the skills to support students in this learning model. I want to thank Garth Anderson, Principal and Katherine Oviatt, Superintendent of Learning and their teams for organizing and facilitating this important opportunity for our families.
 
We ended the week on Friday with our first online Director’s Leadership Team meeting of the school year. We discussed our COVID-19 strategy, opening day enrolment numbers, student accident insurance reporting, and other important items that are necessary for the start of the school year. I thank my central office team for preparing their agenda items, and our Principals and Vice Principals for their engagement and discussion at these critical meetings.

We then met as a Board Governance Committee for their first meeting of the school year. This committee includes Jennifer Lemky (committee chair), Doug Armbruster, Jenna Hale, and Paul Crow-Buffalo. The committee was joined by ex-officio members Jim Hack (Chair) and Linda Mattock (Vice-Chair). As with all of our Board committees, many important discussions happen around the table during our Governance Committee meetings, and recommendations will be brought to the Board at their next meeting.

In closing, I want to thank you for your perseverance. As the author Roy Bennett said, “Never lose hope. Storms make people stronger and never last forever”. The pandemic will be here a little longer, and we will continue to be strengthened by our togetherness and the amazing things that are done for our kids.

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