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

A student works in a science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary on Friday, March 12, 2021. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
COVID-19 exposures at 2 Central Okanagan schools

Ellison Elementary and Ècole Kelowna Secondary School are reporting exposures

Nolan Foote becomes the 62nd Rocket to suit up in an NHL regular-season game on Sunday afternoon (Photo: Kelowna Rockets)
Former Kelowna Rockets captain plays first NHL game

Nolan Foote played his first game with the New Jersey Devils on Sunday

Pastor Cliff Siebert of the Okanagan Landing Community Church (centre) addresses some of his congregation in-person for the first time in many months Sunday, April 18, as the church held the first of what they hope will be regular outdoor services with COVID protocols adhered to and obeyed. (Roger Knox - Morning Star)
Vernon church hosts outdoor service

Okanagan Landing Community Church put strict COVID protocols in place to hold sermon in back parking lot

The City of Armstrong has been named one of Canada’s 20 best towns to live based on low cost of living and high paying jobs, according to a survey by Numbeo. (Facebook photo/Rhythm Productions)
Armstrong lands among 20 best cities to live in Canada

Survey conducted based on low cost of living and high paying jobs; five other B.C. towns on list

Vernon Vipers forward Ryan Shostak (centre) fends off a check from Salmon Arm defenceman to get a close-in scoring attempt on Silverbacks goalie Owen Say during Vernon’s 3-2 B.C. Hockey League pod play shootout victory Saturday, April 17, at Kal Tire Place. (Lisa Mazurek - Vernon Vipers photography)
Vernon Vipers use shootout to subdue Salmon Arm

Snakes score 3-2 B.C. Hockey League pod play win at Kal Tire Place

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Joudelie King wants to get out and live life to the fullest, but there are places she can’t go because they don’t meet her accessibility needs. (submitted photo)
New online tool provides accessibility map for people with disabilities

The myCommunity BC map provides accessibility info for nearly 1,000 locations in the province

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

British Columbia’s provincial flag flies in Ottawa, Friday July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Wildfire fanned by winds near Merritt prompts evacuation alert

BC Wildfire Service says the suspected human-caused blaze was fanned by winds

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The Rogers logo is photographed in Toronto on Monday, September 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tijana Martin
Rogers investigating after wireless customers complain of widespread outage

According to Down Detector, problems are being reported in most major Canadian cities

Brent Thompson and Jordan Goebel enjoy coffee and crepes for lunch at The Night Cafe’s new sidewalk patio in downtown Salmon Arm on Friday, April 16, 2021. With indoor dining on hold as part of a March 29 provincial health order, Thompson and Goebel said they’d been patio hopping over the past couple of days, taking in the city’s varied dining options. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)
Patio pivot offers some reprieve amid restrictions for Salmon Arm restaurateurs

Owner points to impossibility of running a business, raising a family with such a limited income

Flow Academy is located at 1511 Sutherland Avenue in Kelowna. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
National fitness group condemns unlicensed Kelowna gym’s anti-vaccine policy

The Fitness Industry Council of Canada says Flow Academy is shining a negative light on the industry

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Nothing stopping provinces from offering AstraZeneca vaccine to all adults: Hajdu

Health Canada has licensed the AstraZeneca shot for use in people over the age of 18

Most Read