How is everyone doing? I have been thinking about this question every day since our “return” to classes in January – wondering about how our students are faring, our teachers are coping, and how you, the at-home overseers, are managing. I hope that our efforts to engage our students and one another are going smoothly in your homes, as we work toward our reunion in the coming weeks. Like you, we were disappointed that the re-opening “green light” did not extend to our region when the Government made its announcement this week, but we understand the situation and certainly want everyone to be prudent and safe. Still, if we could only have the kids back – safely and masked – it would be so much better for them.
While your children and their teachers are moving forward with remote learning, we have also been preparing first term report cards, attending to administrative and business office functions, maintaining our school property and continuing the work of our Board committees. Understandably, much of this work has been accomplished remotely, but not all of it. As an essential service, Ontario schools have been permitted to complete some very specific on-site activities that are not possible via remote means. Understandably, none of these activities involve in-person instruction. Stable and secure networks, access to specific resources, and reliable IT support have even meant that some teachers have been working with your children from the familiar surroundings of their own classrooms. Our Google Meet screen galleries have been a kaleidoscope of kitchen tables, bedrooms, and home offices!
Currently, our best information is a possible return to in-person learning on or about February 10th. This seems to be a moving target and we will communicate any specifics with you as soon as we know. Yesterday, you received a short survey to help us understand any difficulties you or your child may be facing with remote learning, along with a request for your input into a possible calendar change regarding schools breaks. Thank you for providing input as we consider the best path forward.
When we do eventually return, all schools will have to modify COVID plans and procedures according to updated guidance from public health units and the government. We are revising this now and will share in advance of our return, so that all families are prepared. Upcoming changes will include a mandatory mask requirement for all students in Grades 1 to 8 (including outside), along with tighter requirements for self-assessment and monitoring.
In the midst of all this, let’s not forget to keep talking to one another. The mental health toll of the last year’s unprecedented and unpredictable pandemic – and the impact of the vacillating responses across all segments of society – are real. They are impacting parents, young adults, and children alike and the potential for lasting harm is real. Our children don’t need more time “plugged-in to simulated experiences”, they need a return to authentic learning, playing, and encounter. And we will get there eventually.
If you or your child are struggling or in a trough, there are some excellent resources and perspectives shared on the COVID-19 Learning Hub at SickKids Hospital. They are not a substitution for a return to normality, but they can help.
Again, thank you to everyone for your patience, partnership, parenting, and pragmatism, as we work through this together.
Ric Anderson, Head of School