There's a new reality school boards across the country are facing with the COVID-19 crisis and School District 57 is preparing to tackle a major challenge when it unveils its first public meeting Tuesday evening utilizing an electronic format.
Most of the participants in the 6 p.m. meeting will be connected through live video links using the Zoom teleconferencing platform. The proceedings of the meeting will be webcast live on the district website at www.sd57.bc.ca for anybody to watch.
"This is a new format for the board and there may be a few trustees physically in the boardroom to make sure the structure is there and maintained, but most of the trustees will be calling in from home," said board chair Tim Bennett. "We'll work through our agenda remotely. It will be a different meeting to chair but we have to make sure we're doing our part to maintain social distancing."
Parents and members of the public will have until 5 p.m. today to make submissions to the board sent through email to firstname.lastname@example.org and those messages will be read out loud at the beginning of the meeting by superintendent Anita Richardson. Education stakeholder groups will each be given five minutes at the start of the meeting for their presentations to trustees.
A draft of the district's new policy manual will be given to stakeholders for a 60-day consultation period. The manual outlines job descriptions for district staff and identifies procedures and protocols for school administrative staff to follow. Trustees will vote on acceptance of the policy manual at the June public meeting.
Also up for discussion is the board's priority list for capital projects and facility grant planning to determine upgrades at the schools which come out of a $3.5 million annual budget provided by the province. The board's five-year capital plan changes depending on additional government funding or grants that become available.
Teachers returned to work last week after the two-week spring break and spent much of their time contacting their students and familiarizing themselves with some of the online teaching tools they will use to present the course material.
Bennett, a father of three, has a son in Grade 2 and they are waiting to receive a learning plan from his teacher. Schools have been arranging times for students with a parent to come by this week to pick up personal belongings.
"We recognize there's a lot of uncertainty for parents and for our staff," said Bennett. "We're all in this together and we really appreciate the support of the community and our staff, students and parents as we work through this together."
Three schools in the city will reopen on Wednesday to provide care sites for students aged five-12 whose parents are front-line health care workers or first responders. They were forced to find alternate care for children as a result of the provincewide closure of schools that took effect March 16. The district's breakfast and lunch meal programs will also be restarted on Wednesday.
Bennett advises parents to check the district website for information updates.
SD 57 announced Monday it is opening up two dedicated phone lines for people to call in with their input on the proposal to rename Kelly Road Secondary School. That comes two weeks after the district launched an online questionnaire to gather ideas on how to incorporate the existing Kelly Road name with the Shas ti (grizzly path) name suggested by the Lheidli T'enneh First Nation for the new school building which will open in September. That decision will be made by trustees at the April 28 school board meeting.
“The school district is dedicated to making the KRSS engagement process as transparent and accessible as possible, given these very challenging circumstances,” said Bennett. “We have two weeks left to hear from the public, and we would like to ensure we hear from as many interested parties as possible.”
District employees will staff the phone lines - 250-552-0993 and 250-640-0605 - available weekdays from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. until April 16. They will ask callers the same questions that are available online on the district website. The phone-in service is only for people who have not responded to the online or downloadable mail-in questionnaire, which are still available. About 1,700 people have so far responded.