Local schools welcome new staff members, exciting changes for year ahead
BY DENNY SCOTT
Local schools are welcoming returning and new students and staff while trying to balance COVID-19 protocols.
Hullett Central Public School in Londesborough is welcoming a few new staff members this year according to Principal Dree Park. He highlighted Kendra Rhynard, who is teaching in the Grade 2/3 classroom as well as Robyn Pedlar, who is covering for Mrs. Gilroy in Grade 6/7,who is on a temporary leave. Park said the staff and students look forward to welcoming Mrs. Gilroy back later this year. Also joining the staff at the school is Miss Desjardins, an educational assistant who will be working with some of the school’s primary students.
As far as enrollment, the school welcomed more students this year than last, Park said, with more expected to join in the coming months.
While the school closed out the previous school year with 250 students, there are currently 262 enrolled, he said, with more set to come. Park also added that there are approximately 20 new students between the Junior and Senior Kindergarten classes.
Park said that both staff and students are settling into their routines at the school, including social and educational routines, and also the new health and safety protocols with students from Grade 1 to 8 masking up, as well as a number of students in the Kindergarten classes.
Students are separated into classroom cohorts for the entirety of their day, he said, including when at recess, and there has been minimal feedback on the situation, he said.
“People are used to how it is for now, and we do our best,” he said. “Hopefully, we can put in a consistent year in a face-to-face environment. Parents, staff and the community know that having students in class is best, and we’re doing everything we can to make that possible.”
Maitland River Elementary School in Wingham has welcomed several new staff members and will be welcoming one more in the coming months according to Principal Angela Cowley.
“We have a new vice-principal, and her name is Janet Goddard,” she said in an e-mail to The Citizen. “This is her first vice-principal assignment. She lives in Goderich and comes from the elementary portion of [Goderich District Collegiate Institute].”
The school also welcomes Courtney Galbraith, who is covering Susan Jamieson’s responsibilities as she is on leave until February. The school also has a new TRA in Tina Pruden. Cowley also said she will shortly be filling an unexpected opening in a Grade 3 classroom.
The school has fewer students this year, Cowley said, with 440 enrolled including five in remote learning. She said the Junior Kindergarten numbers are lower than previous years as well, with 15 less than usual.
Cowley said the school year has started exceptionally well, with a much less stressful start-up compared to last year.
“[That’s] because we know the protocols well,” she said. “They have become routine to us.”
This year, the school has approved the sharing of playground equipment between students, provided the surfaces are sanitized first.
“This has meant that setting up the playground is a bit easier, but students do still play with one cohort or class and in one of the designated areas,” she said. “We have a schedule that has classes rotating through the play areas.”
She said the schedule allows students to anticipate and look forward to the play areas they will be involved with.
North Woods Elementary School near Ethel welcomed three new staff members this year according to Principal Cathy Goetz: Carly Smith who will be teaching French and providing prep assistance through December, covering for Mrs. Drummond; Emma VanVeen, a new teacher, and Sydney Jarvis who has taken over for long-time secretary Jennifer Cochrane who retired last year.
This year’s enrollment at the school is similar to previous years, Goetz said, with 145 students and 14 new Junior Kindergarten students.
She said the new COVID-19 regulations have gone very smoothly and that students are happy to be back at school and are doing their part to keep up with the protocols including wearing masks and following hand hygiene.
“To them, it’s become second nature,” she said. “We didn’t have to teach them all over again.”
She said building mental stamina is one of the goals for the school this year, as being back in the classroom may be difficult for some students. She said the school is using special resources from the local school board and the province to help with that goal.
“We’re talking about valuing ourselves, valuing each other and honouring the feelings we have, as well as addressing confidence and self-worth,” she said.
The school is also working closely with transportation provider Newry Coach to find full-time bus drivers, as the school started this year short one driver. Goetz said that supply drivers have been filling in and one day of regular school bus pick-ups had been missed as a result.
The school also invested in new playground equipment thanks to an outdoor education grant from the board, and also brought in new technology in the form of LEGO Robotic Kits and Ozobots, which teach coding. The units were purchased last year, but weren’t in use until this year.
Goetz also said the gardens at the front of the school were revitalized over the summer thanks to volunteers who put a lot of effort into beautifying the space.
Huron Christian School has a number of new staff members for students to meet this year including Mr. Huizenga, the school’s new principal.
According to Huizenga, other new faculty members include Mr. Warner teaching Grade 4 and band; Mr. deSchiffert teaching Grade 7; Mrs. Huizenga in Student Services and Mrs. Van Oenen teaching Junior and Senior Kindergarten.
Huizenga said there are 177 students at the school this year, up from 167 last year, including 23 new Kindergarten students.
Staff and students are doing their best to follow the COVID-19 guidelines, Huizenga said, and he appreciates the work of so many people to keep the communities healthy and safe.
Part of that is the opening of a new outdoor classroom/exploratory garden at the school, he said.