The first month of the 2020-2021 school year is almost at a close and it truly has been a month like no other. Many of us have been adjusting to the feeling of uncertainty (and stress) that has become a constant companion. There are so many new things to adjust to this school year. As cases and outbreaks of COVID are identified and students and staff are sent home to self-isolate, many schools and families have felt the abrupt impact of the pandemic on their lives. In addition, almost 30% of Edmonton Public School students are learning online, and navigating the bumps of this new school environment with parents and teachers.
I am thankful for the EPSB staff who are navigating this uncertainty with families at schools and in our central departments. I know that it’s been long and difficult work this month and that the work continues. I’m also thankful for the families and students trying their best and continuing to focus on connection, well-being and a love of learning as we head into this year together.
The work of the Board of Trustees has also been continuing and I’d like to provide a few updates:
At our last board meeting, Trustees discussed the use of the $37 Million additional federal funds for school re-entry during the pandemic. Trustees heard that most of the funds will be going directly to increase school budgets for additional staffing. The funds will also be used to help with supply (substitute) staffing costs, portable sinks, mobile testing for staff, technology, additional transportation routes and PPE. The funds will not be enough to reduce class sizes. Trustees continue to advocate for additional funding to meet the needs of EPSB during the pandemic as we expect that we will need additional funds for staffing.
Collection of Race-Based Data
Trustees debated a whole-board motion to begin a plan for the collection of race-based data in consultation with communities impacted by racism. The collection of this data will inform policies and decisions to dismantle systemic racism. EPSB will be working with other school divisions who have collected this data, including the Toronto District School Division, which has collected race-based data using a voluntary student census and anonymous data to avoid profiling students. I’m looking forward to seeing this plan take shape, including engagement with students, staff and community in Edmonton.
The board decided against a by-election to fill the vacant Ward A seat. I voted in favour of our board chair continuing to represent Ward A rather than a by-election, as the costs of a by-election were significant and the earliest date of January 2021 would mean a new Trustee would be in office for only a few months before the next municipal election.
Upcoming Motion on Provincial Exams
I tabled a motion to advocate to the provincial government to suspend diploma exams and Provincial Achievement Tests (PATs) for the 2020-2021 school year given the disruptions caused by the ongoing pandemic.