A large sign reading “Brighter Together” welcomed students to Harry Hooge Elementary on Tuesday, Sept. 5, on their first day back-to-school.
Excited chatter could be heard everywhere in the school playground as about 500 students lined up for their classes.
Grade 1/2 teacher Brittni Kidd walked up and down the lineup of her students for the year, asking each of them about their summer vacation and remarking about how tall they grew over the summer.
One student even offered, “We saw a bear!”
Staff also greeted newcomers at the front of the school, showing them on a map where they needed to be with their children.
Principal Nicole Neggers said the first day back went smoothly for students.
“The students all transitioned back into last year’s classes, reconnecting with their friends and the staff,” she said.
About 16,000 children of all ages across Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows headed back to class on Tuesday.
School started at 12:30 p.m. for a half day of school, returning to a 8:30 a.m. start on Wednesday, Sept. 6.
“Since COVID, we have changed the start time to the afternoon for students on the first day. We find they are much happier and more awake coming after lunch,” explained Neggers about the district-wide start time.
Ridge Meadows RCMP are warning motorists to slow down and heed the 30 km/h school zone speed limit – noting those who don’t may face a fine anywhere from $196 to $253.
New this year at five SD42 schools is a universal meal program at: Harry Hooge Elementary, Eric Langton Elementary, Highland Park Elementary, Glenwood Elementary, and Albion Elementary – which will offer all students a variety of hot and cold lunches two days a week.
Every single student will have access to the universal meal program, and families who are able to pay, can pay based on capacity.
And, after a successful pilot project last year the school district will be continuing the Premium Lunch Program, providing lunches for students in need across the district two days a week, with the Salvation Army covering the other three days.
Rachna Singh, Minister of Education and Child Care, released a statement on students’ return to school across the province, noting how the province is endeavoring to “create an education system that builds greater equity with a focus on student success and well-being for all students throughout the province with safe, supportive and enriching spaces for learning”.
The minister noted the province’s new Feeding Futures funding to province $214 million over three years to create or expand local school food programs in every district in B.C., in addition to savings of up to $145 per child per month for families with children in eligible child care programs.
The minister also mentioned how the provincial government is prioritizing mental health and well-being, noting that at the end of the last school year there were 890 teacher psychologists and counselors working in B.C. schools throughout the province.
“I want to thank all our partners across the education sector for their dedication and collaboration, providing students across B.C. with the comprehensive support systems that they deserve. I wish everyone a safe and successful school year,” said Singh.
Neggers noted how nice it is to see everyone again and get back into a routine.
“I love seeing how much the students have grown and changed over the summer! It’s so nice to reconnect with the students, families and staff,” she said.