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Horizon School Division
Creating a better world, one student at a time.
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September 20, 2021 - a message from Kevin C. Garinger, Director of Education

September 20, 2021

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There are only a few times in my life when I remember exactly where I was when a major tragedy occurred that rocked me to my core. I know each of you who were alive to experience these have felt the same. Among some of these events, I remember the Challenger exploding in late January of my high school graduation year, killing seven astronauts including teacher Christa McAuliffe. I remember the shooting at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999, and the impact that had on me as a young teacher and administrator. And I remember September 11, 2001, and the impact on our world. It has been 20 years since the horrific tragedy of 9-11 that affected our entire world and I know each of us paused to remember the lives of all those impacted during that dark day. Author Aldous Huxley said that "We participate in a tragedy; in a comedy, we only look". To me, that is such an accurate depiction of how we look at these difficult challenges that occur in our world, and each with hopes and desires that the future is never repeated. 

The new Public Health Order from the Government of Saskatchewan took effect last Friday, September 17. As Board Chair, Jim Hack and I shared, information on how this order will affect schools going forward has been provided to all families and staff across Horizon. The Board and my office continue to be very proud of how our students and staff have adapted to this ongoing situation. They have gone above and beyond to keep one another, themselves, and their families safe. Although we have more cases of Covid-19 impacting our schools, we are continuing to manage them with little to no transmission within our classrooms. The mask mandate will help with the potential spread of the disease and it is not lost on us that this creates anxiety for some people. To ensure we are managing this effectively, I remain humbled by the diligence shown by the adults in our young peoples' lives who are regularly helping our children understand the rationale for masking. Our staff and parents have been providing education on how to don, doff, and wear masks and health continues to provide incredible supports to us at every turn. Routine changing of masks is also important and Horizon has enough disposable masks that, at our burn rate of last year, we can last until December. Hopefully, we will be able to remove them sooner rather than later as no one wants our children or even our adults to wear them. Regardless, they are in place until the end of October at which time the government and Dr Shahab will make a decision based on where things are at, in relation to the virus.  

The project for our new school build in Lanigan continues to take shape. On Tuesday, I joined Justin and Kameron in an online meeting of the Lanigan School Project Working Group. The group involves our project manager, architectural firm, and Ministry of Education. There was a great deal of discussion about presenting draft drawings to the Board of Education, the staff, and the public in the near future. The project is entering the last few months of preparation before the actual shovels will hit the ground. We hope to begin that 16-to-18-month process in March!

On Wednesday, the Board held their regular meeting and had a very productive morning discussing the current changes to the plan that has been developed to support Covid-19 in Horizon. Of note were the changes to the plan that relate to the Return to Sport protocol and the procedures therein.

All extracurricular opportunities are important, and drama and music and other arts have elements within the plan that make it relatively easy to address. Often opportunities such as these are in the school so is much easier to manage them within our general strategy. With sports and central band occurring outside the school, involving some level of travel, and involving other schools or even school divisions, there is a need to have specific plans to address these activities.

The most significant component of our current plan is that masking is required during school except when eating or drinking and being involved in sports activities in the gym. At this time, physical education is considered in the same light as sports activities however, physical distance is strongly recommended when engaging in these activities. The most significant aspect of the plan that impacts our young people is concerning close contact status when our young people are unvaccinated.

CASES and CLOSE CONTACTS

First and foremost, whenever there is a case in a classroom, all students are considered close contacts. When youth are vaccinated and they are close contacts, they are required to self-monitor for symptoms but can carry on with their lives, including extracurricular activity. When a young person is unvaccinated, they are required to self-isolate for 14 days outside of school but are able to attend school during this isolation period. In all situations, 14 days occur from the last date of contact with the case. If you have any questions regarding this protocol, please do not hesitate to contact your direct supervisor or my office.

On Thursday, I joined a meeting with Board Chair Jim Hack, Saskatchewan School Boards Association (SSBA) executive member, Christine Gradin, and the rest of the Board Chairs, Directors, and executive members of the SSBA. An update regarding the impending health order was provided and discussions were held on the importance of solidarity in our provincial education sector. This was also the day that the Government of Saskatchewan announced the most recent Public Health Order, so I called a short meeting with central office staff and then the Directorโ€™s Leadership Team (DLT) of principals, vice principals, and central office leadership, to share and discuss how the provincial mandates would impact our schools and facilities.

On Friday morning, I joined a meeting with my fellow Directors of Education across Saskatchewan, to discuss several of the important issues and items affecting our schools and sector. In the afternoon, I took part in several interviews for the position of Communication Services Officer. We saw many great candidates, and I look forward to sharing more on this in the days ahead.

As we head into the last week and a half of September, I want to take this opportunity to remind everyone of the upcoming National Day for Truth and Reconciliation and Orange Shirt Day that will be marked on September 30th, 2021. Some great resources for commemorating this day can be found here and here. I look forward to our students and staff having the opportunity to learn more about Truth & Reconciliation on this very important day as each of us helps to create a positive future.

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