Director's Message May 2021

Message from the Director of Education
Posted on 05/16/2021
sign saying Message from the Director

Dear Families,

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic over a year ago, public schools have been at the forefront, providing much-needed support and connection to students and families. We are singling out all our education staff for the important role they play in supporting student achievement and well-being. Please join me in saluting staff for their incredible work and dedication by reviewing just some of the amazing teaching and learning that takes place in our classrooms every day on the board website

While students, families and staff have been forced to adapt to public health measures and support learning remotely at various times, it is important to acknowledge the challenges this presents for all families. Balancing work with supporting students learning remotely is a tremendous challenge, particularly for families with young children or children with special education needs. This latest transition occurred much more effectively and efficiently than previously thanks to staff who continue to support teaching and learning, and virtual social interactions between students. We will continue to do our best to provide critical educational services during the pandemic, and we appreciate your patience and understanding.

Although there is no current reopening date for schools, the Ministry of Education has indicated it will allow students to return when it is safe to do so. We do not know if the province will take a regional approach as it did previously, but we are hopeful students will return to face-to-face learning as soon as possible. Some students with significant special education needs did return to in-person learning last week where they cannot be accommodated remotely. Students and staff at schools are following enhanced safety protocols and are also invited to take part in asymptomatic testing outside of the set schedule for our board. Please visit the board website for when your student is eligible for asymptomatic testing. A reminder that this testing is only for those students who do not have symptoms.

We are also working with our partners at KFL&A Public Health on the vaccination of education workers across Limestone. Staff who work directly with students with significant special education needs, and are back in school now, have all been invited to schedule their COVID-19 vaccination if they choose to do so, and as local vaccine supply permits. We are also pleased to see that all education workers across our district, and the province, will be eligible to book their appointments beginning later this week. In the meantime, I encourage everyone to remain vigilant in following the stay-at-home order and local public health directives to slow the spread of COVID-19. Local Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore has been very clear that variants of concern are present in the KFL&A region, including smaller communities outside of Kingston and Napanee and everyone must do their part to follow guidelines.

Although we still have eight weeks to go in this school year, planning for the 2021-2022 school year has already begun. As I shared earlier, Limestone will offer a Virtual School option for September 2021 for students who learn best in the online environment, or require a virtual environment due to underlying medical conditions for themselves or their family members. Secondary families were asked to register their student last month. Now, elementary families who are interested in the year-long virtual option for 2021-2022 are invited to register before May 10. More information is available on the board website along with a registration link.

The pandemic has affected many activities and initiatives in Limestone, however, our important work on equity and inclusion continues. As you may remember, the board conducted its first-ever Student Census last winter to better understand student identity, lived experience, and ability to determine how to eliminate discriminatory biases in our classes and schools. More than 10,000 total surveys were completed by students and families, and Limestone’s response rate among students was 76 per cent. Board staff are now working to analyze the data and we will share more updates in the fall. Read more on our board website. Following a motion by the Board of Trustees, staff were also asked to engage the Black community in Limestone to provide input on actions to address racism in our schools, and barriers to equitable experience. We have partnered with Family and Children’s Services of Frontenac, Lennox and Addington in hosting two initial meetings with agency and community partners as well as Black parents and Black citizens who identify as Black to begin this engagement. The first meeting was held in March and a second is scheduled for June. The board is committed to eliminating racism in our schools and creating more equitable and welcoming environments for students and families. These are just two of many initiatives we are taking. We will share more information about next steps going forward.

It is hard to believe there is only eight weeks left in this school year, but as you can see, there is a lot going on in Limestone. Again, I want to thank all families and students for your patience and flexibility as we have adapted to the many changes and challenges of this past year.

Stay safe and stay well.

Krishna Burra
Director of Education