Students’ last assignments due June 12 as SDML prepares for possible September school reopening

After being out of school for two months already, School District of Mystery Lake (SDML) students will also have a longer-than-usual summer break, according to a COVID-19 update sent out May 15.

The last packages for learning at home will be sent out June 1 and are due back June 12. The following week, teachers will work on assessments, report cards and recovery learning recommendations for students who have not been able to participate as much as needed in online learning. The last week of June will see district and school personnel working on return to school and transition plans. Report cards will be ready on Student Connect June 29 and parents can also call their children’s school if they require a paper copy.

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As of May 19, there was no definite date when school would reopen for the 2020-21 year.

“We have no date at this point,” said SDML superintendent of education services and programming Lorie Henderson at the May 19 SDML board meeting. “We are looking at a September opening. We’ll receive that information from the chief public health officer. At our response planning team meeting last week we are starting to think about school reopening plans but instead of all the school districts writing their own plans without a framework, the province is going to be providing a framework so we’re hoping to receive that in the next week or so and then we’ll be able to plan our district’s reopening.”

The district is also moving ahead with plans to provide some of its students’ families with internet at home.

“We started out with about 65 names but once we started to go through the families not everybody wanted the internet hooked up,” Henderson said. “As of last Thursday when I was writing my report there were 12 homes that have been scheduled for internet access and we have 21 homes that will have internet access."

SDML will pay the fees for these internet connections through July and August in hopes that the families will be able to pay for it themselves after that.

“Rather than just run them for May and June, we’re going to have internet access for the entire summer also so that they can still continue with their learning,” Henderson said. “The numbers came in less so the dollars that we allocated, we just decided that we would be able to extend that. We’re really hoping the opportunity for the families to continue is there once we’re done with the payments. Sometimes the $175 hookup fee is a deterrent for families. The $35 a month is more affordable so we’re hoping that that would continue.”

Trustees heard in April that about 500 of the district’s approximately 3,000 students don’t have internet access at home.

Henderson also noted, as outlined in the COVID-19 update posted on the district’s Facebook page and sent out to parents via email and recorded phone messages May 15, that playground structures on school propertry are now open for use.

“I know that kids were starting to play on the structures so we just wanted to get that out there,” said Henderson.

For the third meeting in a row, superintendent of human resources and policy Angele Bartlett informed the board of a departing teacher, though this time it was a retirement and not a resignation.

“Colette Hykawy has submitted her letter of retirement effective June 30, 2020,” said Bartlett. “Mrs. Hykawy has been with the district since 1990. She worked as a middle years teacher at what was then known as Eastwood School, now Wapanohk, and Juniper. She also was a teacher-librarian at Juniper and then she did that half-time for quite some time and then she split her duties as a teacher-librarian between Juniper and  Burntwood. Now she’s retiring her position as an early years literacy and intervention teacher that was split between Westwood and Riverside School. On behalf of the School District of Mystery Lake, I just want to wish Mrs. Hykawy all the best in her retirement. Whatever she’s up to in her next phase of life, we wish her well and we’re going to miss her.”

Bartlett said she is in the process of trying to fill vacant positions for next school year, including 10 resulting from resignations announced at the May 5 and April 21 board meetings.

“We have been in the thralls of hiring and trying to fill positions for next year which has been a little different this year, not quite as maybe personal either,” said Bartlett.

Secretary-treasurer Kelly Knott said the district has spent about 71 per cent of its budget for this school year, which is 85 per cent complete.

“We’ll finish the year with  dollars left over as a result of having to halt a lot of our non-essential projects,” Knott said. “We’re awaiting further direction from the province as to what we will be doing with those. At this time, we’ve been directed that the funds be set aside into a separate account.”

The trustees also approved the district’s five-year capital plan for submission of the Public Schools Finance Board and a borrowing bylaw related to the district’s $4 million line of credit and credit cards for use by senior administration and school administration, which is renewed on an annual basis for the next fiscal year.

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