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Central Okanagan school briefs

The last Central Okanagan School Board meeting for the year took place on June 23

Central Okanagan Public Schools has some positive numbers to celebrate for graduation rates this year.

In his annual year in review report to the Central Okanagan Board of Education, superintendent/CEO Kevin Kaardal cited a six-year graduation rate of 96.5 per cent, coupled with an Indigenous student graduation rate now at 84.4 per cent compared to the provincial average of 70.7 per cent.

Kaardal cited accomplishments across the school district for the 2020-21 term but acknowledged overshadowing everything were the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

He called it “courageous and heartwarming” work by all school staff to pull together to get through this past year without having any school closures.

“We all had to face the unknown. It was an unusual year and yet our people were creative and courageous, which we see by the overall good performance of our students this year despite those challenges,” he said.

He said clinics held to innoculate school district teachers and support staff along with public clinics hosted at schools reflect the safest path forward for schools reopening in September is to be vaccinated.

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Glenmore Secondary School is the top priority for the school district new schools program under the updated five-year capital plan submitted to the ministry of education.

Second, on that list is a new elementary for the Wilden area.

Another capital plan category priority is the acquisition of a school site property in the UBC Okanagan neighbourhood and Goat’s Peak in West Kelowna.

Topping list for school additions is Ecole KLO Middle and Rutland Senior Secondary.

The top priority for school replacement remains Rutland Middle School.

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Mar Jok Elementary in West Kelowna will see the addition of three new picnic tables.

The school parent advisory council will contribute $8,800 towards the cost of the project, with the remaining $3,600 paid by the school.

The tables will be installed by school district support staff near the school’s football field, with one of the tables being wheelchair accessible.

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The budget planning process for the 2021-22 school year has been completed for submission to the ministry of education for approval.

The $292,680,128 budget is based on a projected enrolment of 23,087 full-time equivalent students and 360 international program full-time students.

The international student enrolment was curtailed to 260 this past year largely due to the impact of COVID-19.

The program is anticipated to generate $1,450,000 in revenue, money which will be used to support student services not allocated for in education ministry budget funding.

The school bus transportation fee also remains the same as this past year at $300 for each bus rider.

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A new Indigenous Art Studio course will be offered to Grade 11 students at Mount Boucherie Secondary this fall.

Developed by art teacher Jim Elwood, the main emphasis would be the visual arts development of each student, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, of the course, based on the backbone of composition, colour theory, line, shape and the skills of drawing, painting and sculpting.

The goal of this course is to honour and celebrate the Indigenous community through visual art and provide an opportunity for any student to learn and experience these visual art forms.

“It is important for students to have the opportunity to connect with the Indigenous community in a deeper more meaningful way,” says the course synopsis.

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A public spectator to the board meeting on Zoom voiced her concerns in a question to trustees about how her two grandchildren came home from school after being told about the discovery of 215 graves sites at a former Kamloops residential school, saying they were physically shaken by what they were told and did not want to go back to school.

“We have to let kids be kids. They are already influenced too much by outside sources. Teachers should not be exposing this kind of sensitive information to students,” said the grandmother.

Kevin Kaardal, school district superintendent/CEO, noted if any parents have concerns about what or how their child is taught in school, the first step is to make those concerns known to the teacher.

“Our expectation of teachers, and more important the expectation of themselves, is to talk with parents about things parents want answers for,” Kaardal said.

He said the residential school unidentified gravesite is a challenging issue likely to be repeated many more times at other residential schools in the days and weeks to come.

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The school district reiterated the current policy to not promote or encourage students to get a COVID-19 vaccination.

Kevin Kaardal, school district superintendent/CEO, said school district staff don’t ask students to consent to any vaccine.

“That is not our role. We did distribute a letter on behalf of Interior Health sent directly to parents in which students were asked to encourage one another to get the vaccine.

“Any concerns about that message should be directed to Interior Health.”

It is not required under provincial law, but the IH approach has been all young people who register to get a shot in the arm are asked first if they have discussed their decision with a parent or family connection, Kaardal noted.

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