Here are the highlights from Arrow Lakes School District 10 Superintendent Terry Taylor’s report to trustees at the November 17 board meeting.
• COVID-19 has been hard on all aspects of the education system, but it’s put extra pressure on staff who clean facilities to ensure they’re safe.
To meet new, higher cleaning regulations, the school district added additional cleaning hours to the schedules of custodians and bus drivers, and changed schedules to have custodians start during the school day.
“Though intended to solve the emergent problem, the change of hours to during the school day has caused some unintended consequences for our custodians: additional workload and stress to get to cleaning floors and other regular maintenance/ cleaning tasks done while students and staff are in buildings,” Taylor reported to the board.
After a review of the issue, the district has put in place some steps to help overloaded custodians: some workers’ hours will be changed back to after school, while additional staff will be hired to clean ‘high touch’ areas during the day; misting devices have been purchased to support high-touch area cleaning in schools and busses; PPE (personal protective equipment) is being provided for use voluntarily by cleaning staff; and staff and students will help by stacking chairs after class to help make disinfection faster and easier.
The district will continue to monitor how the tweaks to the system are helping staff keep the facilities safe and clean.
• It’s the final 1% of the job that takes up the other 99% of the time. A few “last moment hiccups” have stalled the opening of the new Goat Mountain Child Care Centre in New Denver. While almost complete for more than two months now, licencing officials still have small concerns that needed addressing. Taylor says she’s confident, however, the building will finally be open on November 30. A grand opening with all the dignitaries, COVID permitting, is planned soon.
• As work wraps up with one daycare, plans on the second one are underway. The Nakusp Child Care Centre, planned for the local elementary school, is set to open in May 2022. Right now design plans are being finalized, as are plans for demolition of two portables at the school to make way for the daycare. Demolition should take place early in the new year, and a safety assessment has found only “small and isolated amount of asbestos” around one sink, and lead in the portables’ exterior paint.
• The school district is proud of its work getting students to learn outdoors, and it’s been noticed by its peers. SD 10 was recognized by other West Kootenay districts for having the most students per capita who’ll be learning outside this year. A Nakusp Elementary teacher who signed up for an outside learning conference also has reason to celebrate. Marsha Roberts won a $500 prize from the Take Me Outside for Learning (TMOL) program. The money can be used at the new online Outdoor Learning Store to enhance her class’ outdoor experience.
• Ottawa continues to support local school districts adjust to the world of teaching during a pandemic. Superintendent Taylor says federal Safe Return to Class Funding - $150,000 now and further $150,000 in new year – can be spent on learning resources and supports, health and safety, transportation, and before- and after-school childcare.
Taylor says the money has been allocated for an additional Distance Learning teacher and clerical time to manage the larger number of students taking distributed learning courses this year. Some of the money will go to additional mental health supports for students, enhanced cleaning supplies and equipment, routing software for more efficient bussing, and for arts and recreation activities for before- and after-school care.
John Boivin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice