January 16th, 2021

Start of the new school year

By Submitted Article on September 23, 2020.


the key to

a successful reopening

It is hard to believe that we are nearing the end of the first month of the school year! To say that the start of this school year was unique is somewhat of an understatement. There are, however, some aspects of the school year start that held with tradition.

First, and most significant, the presence of students in the schools brought an energy and re-invigorated passion for engaging in work that serves our children and youth. I know that there were a number of staff members who were overwhelmed with emotion when able to interact with students once again. This also held true with students who are learning from home. I had the opportunity to watch a teacher for a while engaging with at-home students. The same passion for making a difference for these students was present and a sense of excitement on the part of the learners for re-engaging with others in the common pursuit of learning came across loud and clear.

For my first column this year, I want to take the opportunity to thank and acknowledge everyone who worked tirelessly over the month of August to start the school year on a good note. While not everything is perfect, and we continue to strive for improvement, I believe that the start of the school year was in good hands and students had a positive start. School administrators managed to re-arrange schedules to accommodate both at-home learning and keep students safe in school within cohorts that are structured in a manner to optimize health and safety.

Everything was put in place for sanitization with the facilities and our caretakers continue to maintain school environments that are sanitized and healthy. Many teachers had assignment changes, including being assigned to at-home learning. This has demanded a tremendous amount of learning, time, preparation and incredible flexibility. My observation when visiting schools is that students follow protocols and understand the importance of keeping themselves and others safe. All staff have had to adapt to doing things differently and have demonstrated that they are not only flexible, they are innovative and creative.

I also want to thank parents and all those who support children and youth during this challenging time. I know that new norms and routines, including facilities being closed to visitors, are difficult. Your patience with transportation, new school protocols, and at-home learning logistics is appreciated. Lethbridge School Division Re-Entry Plan was guided by the principles of safety, wellness, learning and achievement. We engage in ongoing reflection regarding protocols, grow in our skill with delivery in a different context, and continue to appreciate the advice and guidance of Alberta Health Services as we navigate new circumstances. Schools continue to work hard to welcome students in safe places. It takes a community to keep children and youth safe, and we truly appreciate the co-operation and support of everyone as we continue to engage in our role to grow learners.

Cheryl Gilmore is the Superintendent for the Lethbridge School Division.

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