Superintendent’s Update

Posted On Friday January 14, 2022

Dear Parents and Caregivers

We have had a very successful week with lower student absenteeism than what has been experienced historically. Thank you for having your children stay home when ill and for putting health and wellness first for everyone. While this is a time of uncertainty, our DistrictContinuityofLearningPlan and commitment to existing and enhanced safety measures has been effective.

District Student Advisory Council

On Wednesday, January 12, our District Student Advisory Council, a group of secondary student leaders from every secondary school in our District, reviewed five-year trends for SD73 high school students’ sense of belonging. They found that a sense of belonging declines in grade 10 and increases in grade 12.

Some ideas about why the decline happened in grade 10 were:

  • change to a new location is hard (i.e., experiencing a new environment and social group) often created a feeling of loneliness and alienation (not belonging);
  • work often started in grade 10 and this was another change to adapt to while learning expectations of grade 10;
  • life becomes more serious in grade 10 because they are having to decide what to do for a career and set up their schedules to achieve it. Looking forward is pressure-filled.

Some ideas to improve this decline in grade 10 were:

  • sharing these trends to show that if someone in grade 10 feels that they do not belong when they enter high school, “they are not alone” and “they are normal”;
  • creating transition events (e.g., host a virtual “Link Day” for the students who will be entering high school to meet each other and to engage in team activities);
  • getting to know who they are (passions, values) can help to ground them so getting involved in clubs and teams is helpful;
  • seeing “school as a tool to pursue one’s passions” rather than “absorbing information”;
  • reframing school as a time to discover passions instead of studying to get high-paying jobs is what will fuel a sense of identity and belonging in school.

Deputy Minister Communication- Rapid Antigen Tests

Deputy Minister Christina Zacharuk and Dr. Réka Gustafson, Public Health and Wellness and Deputy Provincial Health Officer were on a Zoom call with superintendents today to share the anticipated news that rapid antigen tests will be distributed to school districts next week. The goal is to provide staff with tests so that when symptomatic, they can determine whether they have COVID and to discern, with health advice, when to return to work. This starting point is to ensure program continuity for students, and it was considered another tool, not a required tool, to remain operational during this Omicron variant wave.

Interior Health Communication

Superintendents received a letter from Interior Health (IH) confirming that contact tracing and public notification of potential exposures is no longer feasible or effective. As shared last week, Omicron is infecting individuals much faster than previous strains of COVID-19 and incubation periods are shorter, which makes calling those infected to be too slow. By the time calls are made, positive cases have been in close contact with others and symptoms have already resolved or increased. The direction from Interior Health for anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 is to self-report a positive test, self-isolate, and notify close contacts. This information, along with examples of close contacts, can be found on the InteriorHealthwebsite.

Supporting Immunocompromised Learners

As indicated in the DistrictContinuityofLearningPlan, students who are immunocompromised and/or have complex medical issues will be supported. For short-term absences, teachers will continue to support learners, with assistance from school teams. The District Home Hospital services team can provide additional support, if needed. Students requiring support for long-term absences can work directly with their school principal. School leaders will communicate with their respective Assistant Superintendent regarding programs and services that are available.

Existing safety measures

  • Continue to complete the dailyhealthchecklist or use the Kto 12 HealthCheckApp;
  • Ensure that students and staff stay home when they are sick or have symptoms;
  • Use available space to spread out and to respect others’ personal space;
  • Students and staff wear a mask when in schools or riding a bus;
  • Regular and effective hand washing and/or sanitizing;
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces at least once a day.

Enhanced safety measures

  • Continue to emphasize the completion of the dailyhealthchecklist or use the Kto 12 HealthCheckApp;
  • Continue to stay home when sick or have symptoms;
  • Continue to maintain personally respectful space between individuals;
  • Continue to wear a mask when in schools and when riding a bus;
  • Continue regular and effective hand washing and/or sanitizing;
  • Continue cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces at least once a day;
  • School events and assemblies will be virtual;
  • Adult-only meetings (e.g., staff meetings) will be virtual, whenever possible;
  • Visitors to the school will be limited to those who provide direct benefit to student learning and wellbeing (e.g., teacher candidates, meal program volunteers, etc.);
  • Spectators at school events, including sporting events, are not permitted;
  • School classrooms will be reconfigured to maximize the amount of personal space available;
  • Break times will be staggered and students will use outdoor classroom doors to reduce the congestion in hallways and shared spaces during transition and break times;
  • Restrict the sharing of food among students.

The DistrictCommunicableDiseasePreventionPlan continues to reflect any changes based on provincial safety measures and K-12 guidelines. Every school has a revised communicable disease prevention plan posted on their website.

Enjoy your weekend after a successful return to school.Take time with family and friends while staying safe. 

Rhonda Nixon, PhD


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