As members opened the meeting with their round table discussion for new business, one item resonated with each member, which is the students’ resilience during the past year. Yes, COVID is talked about far too much; however, it is something our society has never faced before, let alone explain a virus of this magnitude to school-age children. Inreach Teacher Mary Ann Hodges stated,” Although we were coming up with some struggles and caught up in the COVID fatigue, the resilience our students are showing is just phenomenal. We have faced some battles, but we do every year." The school's attendance remains around 95 percent, showing commitment during this unprecedented time from both the parents and the students.
Students are accustomed to some of their education conducted virtually due to health restrictions, but that has not stopped them from excelling in their studies and giving it 110 percent. The same can also be said for the teachers as they have invested so much time and effort to ensure students can continue learning with as minimal interruption as possible. As Principal Ian Baxter explained, one of his best moments occurred on February 10 at the Teachers Meeting. Typically, these meetings are just over an hour-long. Still, this one lasted much longer as the teachers became so heavily engaged in discussions, debates, and the many ideas put forth to the table was incredible. "I think it is important for parents to understand, our teachers have a huge vested interest in the students and their school. Last week's meeting was proof again how much they truly care,” Stated Baxter.
In addition to students having support from the teachers, the CHAMP (Community Helpers and Mentoring Programs) team is also available. One of their main goals is to increase mental wellness for students, teachers and community members through group activities or one-on-one programs and discussions. Sandra Hardy, CHAMP Coordinator and Program Manager for the Mental Health Capacity Building Initiative for Northern Gateway Public Schools, commented, “January has been one of the more challenging months. We have seen a huge increase in anxiety in children and families as they seem to be hitting a covid wall. We have shifted our target to spend more time doing student check-ins and making sure students are on track, conflict resolutions, and follow-ups. Throughout the School Division, we have seven coaches available both in school and through online Google Classroom. Everyone has been doing a superb job, and we are grateful for that.”
Another highlight from the council meeting was the Capitalized Infrastructure Maintenance and Renewal (IMR) funding recently approved for the Fox Creek School. Northern Gateway Public Schools Division receives IMR funding for building and maintenance improvements. Each year, before January 31, principals submit written requests to the NGPS Director of Maintenance for maintenance projects they would like to see for their school. The annual IRM funding goes towards projects such as improving the quality of the school environment, upgrades or building replacements that pose a health or safety risk, improving energy conservation, improving the quality of the learning environment, or meeting the needs of disabled or special needs students. Principal Ian Baxter did submit his list and was happy to announce many of his requests were approved. The Fox Creek School was built in 1969 and remains in relatively good condition as it was constructed of steel and masonry, but as the building ages, there are upgrades needed. Projects approved for 2021 are a new heating system which consists of an upgrade to convert it from a series of forced air systems to a central hydronic system which would reduce ongoing operations and maintenance costs. Another significant project budgeted for $350,000 is improvements and upgrades to the washrooms and change rooms throughout the school. The flooring throughout the restrooms will be replaced, including upgrades to the handicap facilities. Another item on the list is the upgrade of their security system, including the Keyscan Aurora access control system. This system allows teachers and other authorized cardholders access to locked doors using a chip card.
Building improvements are expected to be completed by this fall. Which, according to Principal Ian Baxter would be perfect timing. If all goes according to plan and health restrictions get eased, Baxter would like to hold an open house at the school. “It would be a great time as the school upgrades should be complete, the running track will have opened up, the greenhouse will be complete, and a lot of the outdoor classroom will also be complete. The fall will be a good time to celebrate the things that have happened at the school this year”, stated Baxter.
Vicki Winger, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Whitecourt Press