Assistant superintendent Rick Oliver has retired after a 28-year teaching and administrative career with Central Okanagan Public Schools. (File photo)

Central Okanagan school staff anxiously await vaccine

Pause in AstraZeneca vaccine delivery setback for vaccination plan

Central Okanagan Public Schools is anxiously awaiting a heads-up that coronavirus vaccines will be made available for school district teachers and operations staff.

The AstraZeneca vaccine had been earmarked for school district staff, but a pause in its use ordered by the federal government has delayed that process.

“Work is ongoing on that and hopefully we will hear something soon about it,” said Kevin Kaardal, school district superintendent/CEO, noting a prioritization of school staff to get the shots because of ongoing exposure issues.

“For us, we are seeing an uptick again with exposures which Interior Health is working on with students and staff.”

Kaardal said the rise in exposures is tempered a bit by exposures affecting families with students in several schools or staff who work at more than one school.

“So, it’s a little less widespread than it might seem by the numbers but it is still very worrying. We are watching it and asking IH to watch it as well,” he said.

Kaardal reiterated that school facility public health measures have so far proven effective at limiting the transmission of COVID-19 exposures into outbreaks, as those exposed tend to be bringing it in from outside school.

“It remains that a single transmission is a concern so we encourage everyone to follow the public health advice of (Dr. Bonnie Henry) to help bring down the level of exposures in schools,” he said.

*****

Long-time Central Okanagan school administration assistant superintendent Rick Oliver has officially retired.

Oliver has served a variety of positions during his 28-year tenure with the school district, which board of education chair Moyra Baxter acknowledged in offering him well wishes in his retirement.

“We are both a lot greyer than when I first met you,” Baxter joked.

Oliver began his career with the district as a teacher at Rutland Secondary, which he would later become principal of in 2004.

From there he would teach and become vice-principal at Mount Boucherie Senior Secondary from 1995 to 1999. He also served as the principal at École Dr. Knox Middle School and Constable Neil Bruce Middle School.

Most recently as assistant superintendent, Oliver oversaw the West Kelowna Family of Schools, the Central Family of Schools, and the international education program.

***

The public education awareness committee has developed a new double-sided brochure card to replace a 30-page synopsis outlining how parents can volunteer in the Central Okanagan School District community.

“We all know and recognize for student learning, our school culture is enhanced by the presence and experience of our volunteers, the diversity they bring to our schools,” said Terry Beaudry, deputy superintendent of schools.

Beaudry added the brochure card will be translated in up to 30 languages spoken within the school district, helping reduce barriers for those wanting to volunteer.

“We want to open our doors wide and at a future date be able to have our volunteers come back into our schools,” she said about the volunteer limitations imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The school board has also recognized National Volunteer Week, April 18-24, in recognition of volunteer support in public schools and programs.

***

Flags will be flown at half-mast on the Day of Mourning, April 28, in recognition of those who have been hurt or lost their lives while performing their work duties.

The event hits home in this school district as one operations staff member has previously died on the job, his memory recognized by a memorial tree that was planted in his honour.

***

A listener to the school board Zoom meeting asked trustees if the ministry of education has responded to capital project expenditure needs.

Ryan Stierman, secretary-treasurer/CFO, said there has been no development on that front, but the provincial government is expected to unveil a preliminary budget this month for the 2021-22 fiscal year.

“Some point after that we expect to receive a response to our capital requests,” said Stierman.

At a local level, it was noted the next finance and audit committee meeting Wednesday, April 21, 4 p.m., will include a discussion on the 2021-22 school district budget.

READ MORE: Central Okanagan school board election set for June 26

READ MORE: Alcohol option opened up at Central Okanagan school facilities rented for events

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