BY COLE PARKINSON insight magazine

oth Horizon School Division and Holy Spirit School Division have had their challenges this year during the COVID-19 pandemic. With Grade 7-12 students sent back to at-

home learning in late 2020, school administrations, staff and students were thrown a curveball — but both divi- sions were prepared. “From the beginning of the 2020-21 school year,we

prepared for the eventuality we would need to pivot and move from one scenario to another,so when the announcement came in late November,we were able to quickly and seamlessly move to at-home learning,”said Ken Sampson, Holy Spirit superintendent. “Although we recognize, for the most part, optimal learning is best realized when students can be among peers and classmates in a classroom setting where collaborative learning experiences exist, learning in an online format can also be a great experience for many learners,but not all.” Horizon also pointed to the fact there has been a lack of extra-cur- ricular activities throughout the school year that has also been a chal- lenge for students. The lack of social gatherings have cancelled team sports for the cur-

rent year and many social groups have been unable to meet, which has brought forward mental health concerns — which Horizon has been examining.

School divisions adapting to school year

“Yes, the lack of access to school sports have been tough on some students,but we must not forget we also do not

have other extra-curricular activities or clubs operating. For example, students who normally partake in activities such as art, drama, technology-based and other clubs are also missing out. Sports and fine arts clubs, while not part of our official mandate, are highly-valued by parents, students and staff alike.These extra activities build relationships, which schools can leverage when focusing on instruction. For some students, it is what keeps them in school and we like them, are looking forward to the reintroduction of these activities,” stated Wilco Tymensen, Horizon superin- tendent. After a longer than usual Christmas break, the divisions

are reporting a smooth transition back into at-school learning. With the ability to be back around friends, Sampson noted how well the staff has been able to make learning a fun and safe space for kids during the pandemic. “Having students and staff back in classrooms was well-received by nearly everyone. From a social-emotional point of view, students need to be around their friends.While little of this year resembles anything but normal, teachers, administrators and support staff have been instrumental in providing learning environments where students feel safe and welcomed. Further,we have tremendous supports in our schools in the persons of family school liaison counsellors.Our Mental Health Capacity Building Team is also available to support students and staff in our schools, and in some cases, supporting our families as well,”he said.

16 - insight magazine march 2021

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