Central Okanagan public schools have remained open since September in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic and isolated exposure cases reported in many schools. (Contributed)

Central Okanagan public schools have remained open since September in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic and isolated exposure cases reported in many schools. (Contributed)

Marking the COVID-19 one year anniversary in Central Okanagan public schools

School district staff looking forward to spring break after stressful 12 months

One year ago, the Central Okanagan School District approached spring break with considerable uncertainty.

As the public health threat of the COVID-19 began to emerge, the board of education had taken the initial step to cancel all international field trips involving Central Okanagan students, some of who were about to depart in mere days.

“It was an emotional (time) for many students who were still holding out hope their trips wouldn’t be cancelled,” recalled Central Okanagan Board of Education chair Moyra Baxter at the March 10 meeting.

“That was the beginning of this…we went into spring break really not knowing what would happen next.”

What ended up happening was schools would not reopen for regular classes for the remainder of the school year, classes open only to students of essential worker parents.

An attempt was made in June to homeschool students in Zoom communication with their teachers, at that time considered a dry run for what might happen when students were to return to school in September.

Baxter applauded the effort of all school staff – administration, teachers, operational staff and students – for coming together to address the COVID-19 challenges as schools were reopened in September with new public health protection protocols in place.

READ MORE: Class resumption raises challenges for Central Okanagan schools

With support funding from the province and federal government, Baxter said operational staff had to adapt to new cleaning protocols, while teachers had to learn new ways to stay connected with students as class time limitations were imposed by COVID-19.

“Our school district staff all came together and here we are a year later, still a bit up in the air about what will happen next, but we should be very proud of each other for how hard we all worked over the last year,” Baxter said.

Kevin Kaardal, superintendent/CEO of Central Okanagan Public Schools, echoed Baxter’s sentiments, calling the efforts of school district staff both courageous and exhausting.

“We are all tired and we acknowledge that,” Kaardal said of facing the challenges of the COVID-19 in the past year.

“But there is a glimmer of hope with the vaccines coming. The proof will be in the pudding when the vaccines arrive and we start seeing vaccinations en masse to our communities, but it makes me hopeful for very different summer and coming September when school resumes but we’ll see how that goes.”

He described the school district as being in the COVID-19 “home stretch,” as beyond vaccine delivery citing optimism in the reported COVID school exposure decline.

“We were getting close to 60 exposures prior to the (Christmas) break whereas last week we had only 10 exposures,” he said.

Kaardal added an ongoing concern remains the economic impact caused by COVID on families.

“Our other worry is that we continue to support families and our staff socially emotionally and also for food and mental health supports to families,” Kaardal said.

“We know this continues to be a very challenging time for many families…some people have lost their livelihoods or other difficult circumstances but we as a school district still try to do what we can to support them.”

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.[CDC]
More COVID-19 exposures reported at schools in Kelowna

Interior Health added additional schools and dates to their list of exposures

Winter driving conditions returned to the Coquihalla Highway on April 10. (ICBC image)
Coquihalla motorists warned of fresh snow

Five to 10 cm of snow is expected today for the mountain highway.

Tom Smithwick has written a new book, Knocking On Freedom’s Door, about his experiences advocating for a drug addiction treatment program in Kelowna. (File photo)
‘Knocking On Freedom’s Door’: A retired Kelowna lawyer’s insights to mental illness, addiction

Freedom’s Doors advocate Tom Smithwick shares what he has learned from experiences of treatment program clients in new book

Royal LePage Arena was an addition to West Kelowna championed by Len Novakowski. (File photo)
West Kelowna community leader Novakowski dies

Former Westside regional district director Len Novakowski dies after lengthy health battle

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod, seen here on April 9, 2021 with four-year-old sister Elena and mom Vanessa, was born with limb differences. The family, including husband/dad Sean McLeod, is looking for a family puppy that also has a limb difference. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. family looking for puppy with limb difference, just like 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy McLeod born as bilateral amputee, now her family wants to find ‘companion’ puppy for her

A vehicle that was driven through the wall of a parkade at Uptown Shopping Centre and into the nearby Walmart on April 9 was removed through another hole in the wall later that night. (Photo via Saanich Police Department and Ayush Kakkar)
Vehicle launched into B.C. Walmart removed following rescue of trapped workers

Crews cut new hole in parkade wall to remove vehicle safely

Four members with Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans were out at Cultus Lake on March 28 and 29 hauling trash out of the waters. (Henry Wang)
PHOTOS: Out-of-town divers remove 100s of pounds of trash from Cultus Lake

Members of Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans hauled out 470 pounds of trash over two days

As of Saturday, April 10, people born in 1961 are the latest to be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Black Press files)
B.C. residents age 60+ can now register to get their COVID-19 vaccine

Vaccine registration is now open to people born in 1961 or earlier

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A new saline gargle test, made in B.C., will soon be replacing COVID-19 nasal swab tests for kids. (PHSA screenshot)
Take-home COVID-19 tests available for some B.C. students who fall ill at school

BC Children’s Hospital plans to provide 1,200 kits to Vancouver district schools this April

Sun Peaks is tracking rising COVID-19 cases. (Kamloops This Week Photo)
Sun Peaks sees spike in COVID-19 cases at end of ski season

On April 9, there were 15 positive cases confirmed.

Ruming Jiang and his dog Chiu Chiu are doing fine following a brush with hypothermia that saw several people work together to get them out of the Fraser River near Langley’s Derby Reach Park on March 25, 2021 (Special to the Advance Times)
Man finds men who rescued him from drowning in B.C.’s Fraser River

A grateful Ruming Jiang says he will thank them again, this time in person when the pandemic ends

Most Read