First and foremost I want to say THANK YOU. We are so fortunate here in Saanich to have a supportive parent and guardian community. We have traversed the pandemic in large part due to the teamwork between home and school. Thank you for your collaboration, patience and understanding as we worked through the challenges of the pandemic together. I have heard from many schools about the support from their PAC, the spirit of generosity from parents in general and the feeling that we are together in this journey. So, thank you.
THE PANDEMIC AND NEXT YEAR
There hasn’t been a year like this in my 33-year public education career. Without question, the COVID-19 pandemic has been both an enormous challenge, but also a time of celebration for how we forged creative new ideas in meeting the needs of students and families. I am proud of our teachers, administrators, support staff and district office staff for their individual and collective efforts to meet this year’s challenges -- finding solutions to unique situations that popped up over these past 16 months.
On June 17th the provincial government announced that we can expect to return to full-time in-class learning in September. And while specifics around health protocols will be confirmed later in the summer, they did announce that students will no longer be grouped into cohorts which will allow for normal timetabling in our schools. We expect that things like assemblies, extracurricular activities and school sports will return this fall. Specifics on things like mask-wearing, community gatherings and other health-related items will be confirmed sometime in late August. The June 17th provincial media release can be found here: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2021EDUC0044-001180. Island Health has asked us to remind families of the opportunity to have youth between the ages of 12-17 vaccinated this summer. You can find more information on the Island Health COVID-19 Vaccine website.
The Honourable Jennifer Whiteside, Education Minister, has written a year-end letter to all parents/guardians which you can find here: Minister Whiteside letter
Keep an eye on your email for any additional announcements about school opening from the district as we approach the end of August.
A TIME TO REMEMBER
As we head towards a summer of relaxing and recharging I also feel it is important for me to take a few moments on another topic.
As a society, we have had recent reminders of our collective need to battle intolerance and racism – to find a path forward where there is respect for everyone regardless of the colour of their skin, how they worship, their gender identity or whom they love. We have seen a number of social movements rise up this past year against bigotry – things like Black Lives Matter and the Anti-Asian Hate campaigns. Most recently there has been an outcry against the deaths of 4 people in Ontario who were struck down on a street corner simply because they were Muslim. As a country, we still have much work to do to combat these intolerances and injustices.
215 – Kamloops Indian Residential School
The discovery of at least 215 children’s graves at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School has been a stark reminder to all of us that our entire country has a past that is shameful and fraught with pain and suffering. As a school district, we have a moral responsibility to not only remember this tragedy but to continue to find ways to teach about its history and its effects on Indigenous peoples across this land. Our schools have held a number of ceremonies, tributes and actions in the days and weeks since the revelation that have been tremendously emotional and moving. I recently posted a blog on my thoughts about the national tragedy of residential schools -- if you are interested in reading it, you can find it here: THE SHAMEFUL HISTORY OF RESIDENTIAL SCHOOLS
Our collective, moral responsibility as an educational organization is to leverage these tragic reminders into actions that make a difference in our schools, our community and beyond. Here in Saanich, we will continue in our efforts to bring awareness and action on the topics of intolerance and racism in the months and years ahead.
My year-end reflections on this most tumultuous year can be found in my last blog post – I hope that you can find a few minutes to read it. I have penned this one around my favourite theme of Star Wars as well as including something quite personal at the end: 2021 YEAR-END REFLECTIONS: THE SCHOOL YEAR, STAR WARS & MY DAD
Wishing you and your family a wonderful summer filled with relaxation and rejuvenation,
Superintendent & CEO, Saanich Schools