This Time Last Year

March 11, 2021

A member of our District's Pandemic Response Team recently congratulated us on our "one year anniversary" of the weekly meetings we have been hosting since COVID-19 took its place in our collective consciences. It took a while for it to sink in, but it dawned on me that we have been working at this for what seems like several years. This time last year, the World Health Organization declared that we were amidst a "global pandemic." We hosted a meeting with all school district leaders at the Abby Arts Centre to map out how we would tackle this emerging threat after Spring Break. 

You will recall that people were scrambling to decide what to do for Spring Break. Cancel holiday plans or proceed? We had made the hard decision to cancel several of our student trips organized with EF Tours and were in the throes of dealing with students' growing disappointment, many of whom had saved for years to take that special trip. We later closed our schools and moved online for several weeks - a historical shift in the public education system - before welcoming some students back to our buildings to finish out the school year. We had no idea at the time that a year later we would still be battling COVID-19 to the extent that we have, that our lives would be so dramatically impacted, and that so many lives would be lost.

You need only look around the world to see how devastating the pandemic has been. Still, we must try to find moments of positivity. We have done an amazing job as a sector and within this district of keeping our schools open and our students and staff safe. Our work in BC to supports our students, and by extension, our society has been impressive. In truth, we embraced our mission even more courageously; we found thoughtful ways to continue enhancing student learning and have redoubled our efforts to support the most vulnerable among us. 

I am honoured to work with such a dedicated group of support staff, teachers, principals, vice-principals and managers throughout our #AbbySchools. You have all contributed significantly to our success to date, but I would like to make a special mention of the following team members: 

  • Our Pandemic Response Team has been here from the very beginning when we were still trying to make sense of this. They have worked tirelessly for months to keep us all afloat. They are the architects of our restart plan (Toti:ltcha). We laugh a lot, but boy, do we get the work done. Every Monday morning, we "break" our weekly huddle with our mission in clear sight, propelling us forward.
  • When the idea of the "Transition Program" landed in our laps in late August and we had just days to get online remote classes up and running, we had several teachers who volunteered to do something they had never done before. On top of that, most of you had to pivot back into the classroom this past January. Some of you have continued with the "Flex Program", and I would like to thank you for your courage and commitment.
  • Our Health and Safety Department and Joint Occupational Health & Safety Committees have been spectacular. Consider for a minute the tremendous pressure they have been under to support schools and departments in complying with changing public health orders and WorkSafe BC Expectations. Gold medal!
  • The teachers and support staff (Educational Assistants and Youth Care Workers) who work with tremendously vulnerable students have been nothing short of amazing. We all know that the pandemic has not affected us all equally. Some families are at tremendous risk. Staff in our LSS Departments have been exceptional in giving students what they need.
  • Finally, I would like to thank our students. The kids I speak with tell me just how much they now appreciate school and their teachers. This was certainly not what these students had hoped for this time last year, and this is particularly true of our senior students who have worked hard to get to this point but will be unable to celebrate their final year in the way we normally would. Nonetheless, they have been patient, resilient, gracious and kind in dealing with this crisis. You should be congratulated for adapting to a less than optimal learning environment and for adhering to the health and safety regulations required during these last twelve months.

As we move to spring break and look forward to the final weeks of the school year - and begin to contemplate a September with fewer restrictions - I wish to express my deepest gratitude to our staff and families for rising to the occasion. We are not at the end of this ordeal, but there are encouraging signs on the horizon. As we all go off to Spring Break, I wish our entire community a safe and restful March.

I look forward to welcoming you all back on March 29th for the final push as we work through the last few months of the 2020-21 school year.