Schools are normally bustling in May as we prepare end-of-year activities and plan for the next school year, but this month our activities were oriented to responding to the ever-changing situation created by the covid-19 health emergency. There were many twists and turns throughout May as our system worked to heed to ministerial directives about school closures and possible re-openings.
The announcement in late April that high schools were to remain closed for the remainder of the year meant that we quickly had to change gears to increase supports to students and transition to a remote learning model. This transition was made possible when authorization was given for staff to return to their schools and centres to help organize the retrieval of students’ personal belongings and gather learning materials, technology and resources. This massive operation was carried out efficiently with the co-operation of our administrators, teachers, support staff, parents, and students. I thank everyone for mobilizing so quickly and ensuring the safety and security of all.
The first two weeks of May were spent planning for a possible re-opening of our elementary schools and continuing education centres. Although the government later decided to keep elementary schools in the greater Montreal area closed to students, our preparations were not in vain, for we know that we will need to plan for a different sort of school entry come this August.
In the meantime however, the learning continues for our students. Remote learning plans have been created by our dedicated elementary and secondary school teams along with support from professionals within Educational Services and Student Services. We continue to check in with students regularly through a variety of means. In our adult education and vocational training centres, instruction continues from a distance. Small groups of adult learners can now return to centres to sit for exams and complete the more practical aspects of their training programs.
This pandemic is teaching us many lessons about the value of a student’s school experience. School is more than a building where academics are taught; school is a place for connection and personal growth. Although we continue to have students and staff connect with each other remotely using technology, the learning landscape looks very different and that has been an adjustment for all of us.
The government has not yet announced what we can expect for the start of the 2020-21 school year. Our administrative team is working with ministry officials to ensure that the needs of our community are considered as the government finalizes the details of the back-to-school plans for next August.
In the meantime, it is important that everyone in our community continue to take care of their physical and mental health. We are still in the grips of a serious health emergency. Yes, the learning continues, but the mental and physical wellbeing of our students, staff, and parent community remains paramount.
One example of the ways in which we seek to attend to student wellness is the work we have been doing to promote good sleep habits in youth. We are proud that Lester B. Pearson School Board was named as a co-recipient of PHE Canada’s 2020 Community Champion award. For the last several years, we have been working in partnership with researchers at the Douglas Institute and Riverside School Board to raise awareness about the importance of good sleep habits and to design school-based interventions that promote better sleep health.
We very grateful to PHE Canada for this recognition.