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‘These are uncharted times’: SD57 trustees address COVID-19 during board meeting

SD57 held first board of education meeting since in-class learning was suspended
School District No. 57 addressed COVID-19 during its April 7 board meeting. (via Stock/Hanna Petersen)

Prince George teachers, students and families are facing a new reality as the province battles the spread of COVID-19.

School District 57 (SD57) trustees spent time online last night (April 7) reflecting on the pandemic's current situation during its first board meeting since the province suspended in-class learning on March 17.

“I want to start by sending well wishes to families, staff and communities served by SD57,” said Board Chair Tim Bennett to start the meeting.  

“I think we are hearing a lot that these are unprecedented times. We recognize that these are stressful times, these are anxious times, these are uncharted times.”

He said SD57 staff have worked incredibly hard over these last few weeks including senior administration, principals, vice-principals, maintenance staff and employee groups.

Since in-class instruction was suspended, the district has closed playgroundsissued video statements, launched parent surveys and contacted families to come up with alternate learning strategies.

The provincial mandate occurred during SD57’s spring break, and teachers returned to work on March 30.

“We know there’s a lot of questions and we know there has been uncertainty but what staff has been able to accomplish in a very short period of time is a good thing for our students and to continue the momentum of our district moving forward,” said Bennett.

“This is a stressful time for our families, not only are they worried about the financial impacts of COVID-19, worried about health, but now taking on more responsibilities at home around providing education for children. Please know the district and our staff are there to support you.”

Bennett said education at SD57 is going to look different over the next coming months. 

"It truly is an unprecedented time in our district and the board of education would like to recognize and thank the community for their support and send nothing but well wished to everyone in our community because we are truly in this together."

Superintended Anita Richardson also acknowledged the unprecedented situation in her address to the board.

“Certainly a lot has changed since our last public board meeting in B.C. and across the globe. I would like to acknowledge there is a lot of stress and anxiety and difficult times being experienced throughout all of our communities where we reside in SD57,” said Richardson.  

“Certainly we are not alone, this is a global situation and we are needing to look for solutions in a local level for all of our communities.”

She said the biggest concern they have, as educators, is seeing students and families through successfully to the end of the school year and on into the future.

“I would like to remind parents that although things are rather chaotic and unusual at this time there will be a light at the end of this particular tunnel when we return to some more normalcy,” said Richardson.

She said she would like to acknowledge the generosity of spirit that they have seen evolve over this time of difficulty.

“It was emotional to me to hear of the car parades that were occurring at our elementary schools this week where teachers had the opportunity to drive through the communities of their families and interact with them in this new and unprecedented way,” said Richardson. 

“To hear of the teachers’ stories of the impact it had on them and the memories it had forever created in that experience. I look forward to seeing other creative ways our staff come up with to connect and meaningfully move learning forward in SD57.”

She added the district is open to hearing feedback and that families are welcome to reach out to their schools or the district if they have concerns moving forward.

The next public school board meeting will take place on April 28 and be live-streamed on SD57’s website.