The following are highlights from the May 19 Fraser Cascade school board meeting. For the full meeting audio and agenda, see the SD78 website.
Return to classrooms in planning stages
After the province announced last week that students will be able to send their children back to school on a part-time basis June 1, superintendent Karen Nelson said planning is ongoing now for how this will look in the Fraser Cascade school district.
“Parents have the option of sending their children to school on June 1, when in class instruction resumes,” she said. Teachers are now in the process of contacting families to see how many students will be returning in June. “That’s important for instructional planning, physical distancing in our classrooms, and also for bus transportation,” Nelson said.
Kindergarten to Grade 6 students in SD78 will return at 50 per cent of the time she said. The Grades 7 to 12 will be at 20 per cent of the time, a one day per week equivalent. The same schedule will apply throughout the district, Nelson said.
“So half of each class will attend on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and Friday’s will be reserved for online remote learning,” she said. “Children of essential services workers and students with diverse abilities and disabilities, students requiring extra support will have access to attend school five days a week.”
Planning involves how a daily health assessment for students and staff would look, Nelson said, and new procedures for how to enter and exit school buildings, what to do if a student gets sick at school, food handling, etcetera.
Physical distancing is especially difficult among younger students Nelson said, and efforts could include staggering lunch and recess.
Goodbye Mr. Koopman
Acknowledging the sudden passing of school board trustee John Koopman, the board started their meeting with a moment of silence.
“Mr. Koopman, you have left an indelible mark on every one of us who knew you. Your positive energy, your intelligence and your thoughtful and inquisitive nature will be greatly missed,” said board chair Ron Johnstone, who added that May 19, the day of the meeting, would have been Koopman’s 70th birthday.
Johnstone added that a bursary in Koopman’s honour in the amount of $3,000 will be available this year to a student pursuing post-secondary training in the trades. The bursary was created from donations from district staff, board members and the aboriginal education council.
Koopman’s legacy also came up later in the meeting, as the spring edition of the Inspired journal featured his smiling face in a story about SD78’s careers and transitions initiative.
According to the School Act, the board is required to call a by-election to fill the trustee position left open by Koopman’s passing. Details about a by-election have yet to be announced by the district.
An eye on attendance and lateness at Coquihalla Elementary
Coquihalla Elementary School principal Peter Flynn said he’s been looking closely at attendance and absenteeism at the school and will continue to do so over the next three years. At the school, Flynn said, there is a real concern about kids missing school – some missing a lot of school – and kids being late for school.
Sometimes 90 kids will be away on one day, and with a school population of 360 children “that’s one out of four kids that are away, on particular days,” Flynn said. On some days, according to the school secretary, up to two dozen kids can be late.
“It’s a timely thing we can do, it’s a big concern that we have,” he said, adding it’s important for children to be at school not only to learn but to develop relationships with adults at school – a predictor of success he added.
Flynn said he wants to look closer at why students are away. “We have a hunch that it’s not just sickness. We think there might be underlying things there too, that we need to know. And words like disengagement come up, or just not caring come up and those things, we would just like to address them,” he said.
Coquihalla Elementary grows recycling advocates
It started as an idea to reduce the share of landfill waste coming from Coquihalla Elementary. Teachers Margot Haworth, Lauren Hayden and Wendy Young began working with students and they are now recycling more than ever before.
Leadership students at the school have begun rolling out presentations in each class, as hard and soft plastic recycling bins were put into each classroom and bins for picking up litter outside were made available for students. From this process, a new Recycling Club was created where students are a part of the decision-making process. Assemblies are also spaces where the club does presentations.
“We get to do fun things at assemblies by helping motivate kids by using catchy phrases an actions to go with them, like ‘Cut the ring!’ and ‘Use water bottles,’” said one student via video shared at the board meeting.
While the district picks up paper and plastic recycling collected at the school, volunteers also drive other recyclables to the Mattress Recycling depot in town including markers, pens, Styrofoam, batteries, soft plastic and glass.
Teachers say they’d like to see their program expand across the school district. Other ways the district could assist, they added, is to have help in bring extra material to the recycling depot as well as have clearer guidelines on what can be recycled.