Letters to the Editor.

LETTER – The school system deserves recognition for its handling of COVID

Dear editor,

There are so many workers and organizations which deserve hearty appreciation for the work done during the COVID pandemic, most obviously health-care workers.

I cannot imagine the challenges being faced, having no first-hand experience in those enterprises.

However, I do have experience in the school system, having spent my entire career in various roles as teacher, counsellor, principal of five schools (secondary, middle and elementary) and over seven years at the central office, six of those as superintendent of schools.

Educating thousands of children and teens every day is not an easy task. Ability levels can be astonishingly wide, even at the same grade level. Some grade seven students have reading ability approaching college levels, while others,for a wide variety of reasons, are unable to read past early grade levels. There are children and youth with physical challenges that require a full-time support aide who work alongside gifted athletes. There are students from affluent families and those with not enough to eat. Most students have parents who care and love them. Sadly, there is a minority of children who are left to virtually fend for themselves at an astonishingly young age.

The scale of the numbers, the range of ability, the variety of backgrounds, all combine to make educating children and teens in a safe environment a considerable challenge in any “normal” year. In an era of a pandemic, it must have been a colossal undertaking, and one the district has, by all reasonable measure, done exceedingly well.

The first impulse is to focus on teachers – their instruction is, after all, the key component to education. The admirable work they have done in extremely trying circumstances must be recognized. However, they do not work in a vacuum. Teacher aides work daily with the most vulnerable students in the system. Principals and vice-principals have organized and/or operated the schools in ways never done before. Clerical personnel have answered queries and performed tasks in an atmosphere laden with much more anxiety than usual.

And any homeowner knows the tasks of keeping a house clean and safely maintained. In a time of a dangerous pandemic, that task, across dozens of buildings and acres of grounds, is almost unimaginable.

Central office employees, from payroll clerks, business, and financial personnel and HR specialists, to those co-ordinating district-wide responses, have supported the schools through what must be very stressful times.

It is also logical to assume that the support of parent advisory councils (PACs) has been a contributor to the overall system success to this point in time.

When it was announced that schools would be in session this fall, I must admit to having doubts about the wisdom of the decision. But by any reasonable standard, SD71 people have faced a daunting challenge with innovation and determination, and deserve kudos for their efforts.

Clyde Woolman,

Comox

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