As we mark our first official day of in-school learning since classes were suspended indefinitely in March, I know every one of our Louis Riel School Division staff are doing everything they can to ensure your child's first day is as welcoming, supportive and positive as possible.While my colleagues and I continue to consider all we can do to mitigate risk for staff and students in our schools, I need to acknowledge and applaud the enormous effort parents/guardians have made to ready their families for the journey ahead.
As we move forward, we will all need to continue being creative, resourceful and collaborative.
Throughout the last several months, we have been more than impressed by everyone's adaptability, ingenuity and resilience. This community response has given staff the strength in July and August to plan for students' safe return this September.
First things first: we have achieved two metres (six feet) of physical distancing for all students and staff within all our learning spaces. Even though we started with an average class size of 20.5 students in kindergarten to Grade 3, and not much larger in grades 4 to 12, achieving this fundamental safety measure was no small feat. All staff have worked tirelessly to ensure this always happens in all our learning spaces.
In our elementary schools, we count on the competent instructional teams that bring together educational assistants (EAs), specialist teachers and classroom teachers to help us realize an approach to grouping and supporting student learning. This framework allows us to achieve on a larger scale what was already occurring before the pandemic: a team of teachers and EAs supporting individual, small and large groups of students. By leveraging and scaling this approach, we can reasonably staff for the redesign of learning spaces that ensure two metres (six feet) of physical distancing in all our schools.
In the last three weeks, we have created cohorts of learning groups and asked specialist teachers, classroom teachers and educational assistants to work together to support communities of learners. We acknowledge this will require ongoing nurturing, collaboration, and professional learning resources to support and strengthen collective efficacy and support these relationships.
This cohorting of small learning groups structure will also require us to hire additional teachers and educational assistants. We will continue to monitor the supports in place through September and identify areas where additional staffing is needed.
In our high schools, we are providing a half-day of in-school instruction every day of the week. Students will be able to enter and exit the building in a safe, timely and controlled manner. In a full day instruction model, there is the potential for hundreds of students to gather over the lunch hour. By removing this potential risk, we can focus on providing high-quality education to our students in the safest way possible.
Moreover, we felt it was important to have high school students attend school daily, even if it is for an abbreviated period. We believe that offering daily in-school learning will help ensure we provide a daily structure for students to learn independently from home while also mitigating the potential long-term impact of social isolation. This approach will hopefully also make for a smoother transition to an eventual full return to in-school learning.
This week, the Senior Leadership Team will be in our 40 schools to ensure that all safety measures developed in the weeks leading up to the start of the school year are in place and achieve their intended outcome. Where we need to provide additional measures and add supports, we will. In the coming weeks, we will visit all learning groups and cohorts to check-in, listen and respond to all needs.
I know this hasn't been easy, so thank you for your patience. Thank you for your support. And most of all, thank you for being a part of our community.
We're all in this together.
Christian Michalik and the Senior Leadership Team