The first School District 52 Board meeting of the 2020-2021 academic year was held on Sept. 15 in an online ‘Zoom’ format, highlighting some of the necessary changes the district is making amidst COVID-19 to recognize social distancing.
Some school board members and staff were in attendance at the board office, others connected online, but noteworthy was the lack of parents or guardians of Prince Rupert students participating in the after-dinner time meeting. Community participants who attended the board office in person on the night were turned away at the door and directed to participate online.
While meeting packages and agendas were emailed out five days prior to the Tuesday meeting, location details and online coordinates were not included, which could explain the lack of parental and teacher participation, Gabriel Bureau president of the Prince Rupert District Teachers Union said, during the meeting. If the links were more readily available and provided before the meetings, participation may be higher, he said adding that he had to search for the link to be able to participate.
Whether to open the SD52 board office to participants or to continue with meetings online was discussed in detail, with several board members providing suggestions for possible overcrowding and voicing their pro’s and con’s about in-person meetings.
“It has been decided to continue with ‘Zoom’ meetings,” James Horne SD52 board chairperson told The Northern View. “But clearly we don’t give out good information on how to attend those ‘Zoom’ meetings.”
Having control of a meeting is an important factor Horne said, so the meeting information is not publically provided.
“We still want to keep the meetings under control so our own public can attend and ask questions — not have people from outside our area that are not within our district.”
Horne said the Board has to do a better job of communicating to those wanting to participate and how exactly to do so.
“Calling the board office to register and obtain a meeting code with participant ID seems to be the best way to do it,” said Horne. “We need to let people know that is what they need to do, and we are clearly not doing that well enough.”
Registration for the school board meetings will be required every time there is a meeting, however despite registering, parents and guardians are not obligated to attend if circumstances prevent participation at the time, said Horne. the continuation of ‘Zoom’ meetings will be re-addressed in January 2021.
The next SD52 Board meeting will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 13.
1) District and school restart plans – Andrew Samoil SD 52 superintendent presented the restart plans that have been implemented for schools in Phase 2 of the pandemic response plan. These plans are “living” documents, as they are regularly updated as more information is provided by the Ministry of Education and Public Health officials.
A key part of the plans is the creation of “cohorts” or “learning groups” for all students. Cohorts allow students to continue learning with reduced exposure to other students and staff. Cohorts are identified by Public Health as a key aspect in permitting the safe return to school
Homeschooling and distributed learning are two options available for families whose children are not returning to face-to-face instruction in class.
The district will provide lessons and support to students who are enrolled but can not attend school for medical reasons.
2) School opening – Sandy Pond director of instruction said that 90 per cent of students have returned to school as of Sept. 15. The district will reach out to the remaining families to ascertain education plans. Official enrollment for the year is determined at Sept. 30 and may be available for the Oct. board meeting.
3) Federal Funding – The first half of the funding for school re-opening is just more than $345,000, with the annual amount expected to be $690,000. A plan for funding utilization, which is currently being worked on by district staff, will be available at a future board meeting.
4) Carbon Neutral Action Report – The 2019 Carbon Neutral Action Report was received by the Board of Education. As directed by the Province, the information on tonnes of carbon offset was repeated from the prior year. The actual results for 2019 will be reflected in the 2020 report. The district continues to complete energy efficiency projects to reduce carbon production.
K-J Millar | Journalist
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