School District 42 has begun to offer educational programming, as well as before/after school care, to essential services workers this past week.
The program started with children of health care workers, but SD42 superintendent Sylvia Russell said they hope to be able to expand these services to tier-one essential workers in other sectors in the near future – as safety and resources permit.
“Some say that education saves lives,” Russell said.
“At this time we know, however, that it is our role to help our colleagues in health care, first responders, and those involved in making sure that we have the goods and services that we need.
“Those are the workers we rely on today to truly save lives.”
Russell said it has not been an easy task to quickly put together programming that had never existed before.
“I asked our staff to volunteer to help with this important work and I am very pleased to see the support that has come forward, despite the concerns and fears that everyone shares about COVID-19.”
Staff volunteering for this program come from across a a cross-section of categories, including education assistants, teacher librarians, teachers, noon-hour supervisors, child and youth care workers, clerical, school principals and vice-principals, and senior staff.
Russell said it was quite amazing to see.
So far 16 teachers, 14 educational assistants, and nine school administrators are signed up to help out. Their duties will be in addition to their responsibilities at their home schools.
“We know that there is courage involved in stepping forward to do this work,” Russell said.
“Ensuring that we have strong health and safety measures in place has helped address many of the common concerns, and additional offers to volunteer continue to come in every day.”
Where possible, volunteers have been placed in centres and classrooms where they are more likely to have opportunity to work with students, or other staff members from their home school location.
Safety precautions have been a top priority.
They are following the guidelines outlined in the updated public health’s Kindergarten through Grade 12 school documents prepared by the BC Centre for Disease Control and the BC Ministry of Health, Russell explained.
“We have provided families in the essential service worker program with a copy of this document and have asked them to review with their children sections on hand washing, cough/sneeze etiquette, sharing of toys/items and physical distancing.
“Staff supervising the children in the program will be reinforcing these same instructions on a regular basis.”
Families and staff are asked to perform a self-assessment every morning and attend only if they are healthy.
There are also enhanced cleaning protocols in place at these sites.
Other measures include:
- Minimizing the adult traffic in care centres;
- Classroom capacities are set at six students per class;
- Classes are treated as family units, taking their breaks, lunches and outdoor activities at staggered times;
- Volunteer staff participate in additional health and safety training before working in the care centres;
- Student resource “tool boxes” have been created to eliminate the need to share resources between students; and
- Cleaning protocols for shared resources (tablets) are followed before each student use.
The program currently runs at two sites: Hammond and Alexander Robinson Elementary.
“We selected these two elementary schools because many of the parents who identified as essential service workers requiring the service lived in their vicinity,” Russell said.
“Other considerations included the layout of the buildings, the number and location of washrooms, the surfaces and flooring in common areas and classroom spaces, location of exterior doors – specifically their proximity to the classrooms to be used, cleaning requirements, and the capacity to implement and maintain enhanced cleaning protocols at the site.”
An initial survey to determine how many students would be interested in the program generated more than 1,200 responses. SD42 reached out to more than 400 families to provide additional information about the current parameters of the program and to begin registration.
Of the 400 families contacted, 209 reported that at least one parent/guardian worked as a tier-one worker in the health care sector.
SD42 offered placement to 72 students in the first week of the program, 70 of which chose to register.
“During the first week, we had fewer than five students at each site, but such low numbers seem to have been a pattern in other school districts in the first week, as well,” Russell said.
She added some families have withdrawn from the program as their personal circumstances changed and they no longer needed the service.
As it stands, there are currently 34 students enrolled in the program with another 25 students in the final steps of placement.
“We are proud of the response of our employees and the commitment that staff has shown to supporting students and families during this difficult time,” Russell said.
“We strongly believe that providing these on-site programs for the children of tier-one health care essential service workers is an important way of supporting our community during this unprecedented time.”
BUDGET MEETING ON THE BOOKS
A proposed preliminary budget for 2020/2021 will be presented during an online public meeting of the board tonight (Wednesday, April 15) at 6 p.m.
The meeting will be live streamed on the SD 42 YouTube channel.