Wearing masks is one aspect of students attending school during the COVDId-19 pandemic that has caused stress for parents. (Contributed)

Parents voice concern over mental wellness of Central Okanagan students and teachers

Parent seeks strategy from Central Okanagan Public Schools

A Kelowna parent voiced his concerns to the Central Okanagan Board of Education about the need to restore the state of mental wellness for students and teachers.

Speaking to the Central Okanagan trustees during the public question period at the Feb. 23 board meeting, Shane Styles wanted to know what strategy the school district has for addressing that issue.

“I have met a couple of times with school district officials who have been very accommodating and I appreciate them meeting with me, but when I’ve asked that question each time all I hear is crickets,” Styles said.

“I am left with no answer…on how to repair the learning environment and restore the well-being and mental wellness in our schools.”

Styles said he was speaking both as a parent and the husband of a teacher in the school system.

He asked if a strategical plan in writing could be disseminated to parents and staff on his issues of concern and wondered what that would look like.

“I think we need to be proactive and think beyond just going back to how we used to do things (prior to the pandemic),” he said.

“I really think for how to help fix these areas of concern I have we need to arm our counsellors with ideas and coach the teaching staff…”

Kevin Kaardal, Central Okanagan Public School superintendent/CEO, responded one of the immediate strategies of the school district has been to keep schools open, which has been the case with the exception of three months in the spring of 2020.

“Even though the restrictions put in place have created some anxiety for students, we have been successful in keeping schools open as a preferred option to online learning, ” Kaardal said.

A greater sense of normalcy will return to schools, he said, as restrictions are lifted and other aspects of school life such as sports and extra-curricular activities return.

He said empathy and support remain an important asset in helping students adjust to pandemic-influenced changes in schools, something he says the school district continues to assess and bolster when called for.

“It’s a long process as we turn to hope for a normal situation where students are educated without the need for public health restrictions that currently exist because the safety of students is first and foremost.”

READ MORE: Omicron spread generates concern for Okanagan College students

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