The Central Okanagan Board of Education. (File photo)

School briefs: Ukraine catastrophe overshadows spring break vacation

Sobering thoughts expressed by Central Okanagan school board chair

  • Mar. 10, 2022 2:00 p.m.

Central Okanagan Board of Education chair Moyra Baxter offered a sobering message as students, staff and parents prepare for spring break, March 21 to April 4.

“It is distressing to see what is happening in the world news right now,” Baxter said at the March 9 board meeting, referring to the devastating war between Russia and Ukraine.

“We are all preparing for spring break, whether that be working in our garden or going on a family vacation, while millions of people in Ukraine are being forced to leave their homes,” Baxter said.

“While they are surrounded by countries willing to help them, it is hard to imagine what those people are going through right now.”

Baxter echoed particular sentiments regarding young children who are receiving care in hospitals that are being bombed, leaving them displaced.

“It is hard to get the care these children need if the building is being shelled,” she said.

Baxter urged people to stop and think about how lucky we are in Canada, and do what they can to help the fleeing Ukrainians, now numbering more than two million, and those countries trying to assist them.

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Central Okanagan Public Schools has developed a two-year school calendar for the 2022-23 and 2023-24 school years.

While school calendars are typically done a year in advance, stretching that over two years, with input offered by various stakeholders in the schedules, is intended to provide more flexibility for school boards to offer more creative scheduling options to better meet the needs of students.

From the Central Okanagan Parent Advisory Council, concerns were raised about the number of four-day weeks early in each school year.

In 2022-23, from schools opening Sept. 6 to Remembrance Day, there will be six four-day weeks due to statutory holidays, a teacher professional day and an administrative implementation day.

An ongoing issue raised by unionized support staff was the two-week spring break meant an extra week of losing pay for CUPE 3523 staff.

A staff report cites the extra week of spring break amounts to a $700,000 savings which can be redirected to funding school programs.

The report also indicated a survey showed 87 per cent of CUPE members favour the two-week break, in place now for the past 18 years, and there are some opportunities for required work during that period to make up for lost hours.

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The board of education supports an initiative introduced by trustee Chantelle Desrosiers to advocate the Ministry of Education for special purpose funding to pay for the installation of universal washrooms in existing schools.

The idea came out of trustees lamenting the growing $10 million shortfall of funding for facility maintenance and upgrade work across the school district, which includes universal washrooms additions.

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Central Okanagan Board of Education chair Moyra Baxter has apologized for the school district mix-up with COVID-19 Antigen Rapid Test kits being distributed to elementary and middle school students earlier this month.

Warnings posted by Health Canada about the ingredients in the test kit solution led to the program being temporarily halted.

After review by the ministry of education, while secondary students were able to continue to take home the kits, the tests were instead offered only to parents at the middle and elementary school levels.

The concerns surrounded the potential risks associated with the misuse or accidental ingestion or spillage of the rapid test kit solution on the skin.

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The board of education presented outgoing secretary-treasurer/CFO Ryan Stierman with an Indigenous artist carved money clip, embossed with a rendering of an eagle, as a parting gift for his last school board meeting.

The school district announced Stierman’s plan to step down and pursue other career opportunities earlier this month.

Baxter reiterated Stierman’s impact on a wide variety of education issues in the Central Okanagan since he was hired for the position in 2019.

“You have not been with us for a long period of time but you have had an impact on so many things,” Baxter told Stierman.

“We want you to know we will miss you and we support your decision to seek out new opportunities. We will miss your wise advice on so many challenging issues that we face.”

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