In the week before students headed back to school, the Sea to Sky School District held their board meeting on Aug. 28 to review what's to come this school year and what was accomplished over the summer. Here’s some of what they discussed and decided.
After measles exposure in Squamish and Whistler last school year, the Ministry requires students in B.C. submit their vaccination records or status to their schools. This does not mean vaccinations are mandatory.
Phillip Clarke, director of learning for the school district, said this created a closer partnership with the health authority.
"We have worked with Vancouver Coastal Health to have access to immunization records. They're able to communicate directly with our parents, to contact them if they don't have records or if they're short on an immunization [record]," he said during his presentation to the board, adding the school district will not be contacting parents or creating a database.
What is new, Clarke said, is a pilot project with VCH to help students not be afraid of needles, and help decrease fear of immunization.
In the catch-up immunization initiative last semester, 590,748 students in B.C. had their immunization records reviewed. Registration rose by more than 37,525 students, Clarke said.
Students will no longer have to form an assembly line to check for head lice at schools in the Sea to Sky.
As part of the overall school board policy review, director Clarke said a recent update modernizes the head lice policy, helping maintain the dignity of students and families. Assembly-line inspections, he said, can be a human rights violation.
The new draft of the policy reads: "It is recognized that head lice infestations are considered by public health as a nuisance condition and as such do not pose a serious health problem. Therefore, a child shall not be denied admittance to school because of head lice."
Instead, the schools will help educate staff and parents about detecting, treating and preventing head lice. Any interventions will be done with the help of Vancouver Coastal Health.
"It's so different from when we were all kids," board trustee Celeste Bickford said during the Aug. 28 meeting. "It does happen still today that children are sent home, parents are called away from work to come and collect their child who has to walk out of class... It's not the way to treat kids and families."
She and other board members were in favour of the update and passed the recommendation.
Gender-neutral language and facilities
Creating SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity) neutral washrooms and change rooms have been listed as a high priority for facility upgrades across the school district. Superintendent Lisa McCullough said they are being renovated at every school.
As part of the policy overview started in 2017, gender-neutral pronouns are replacing ‘she' and ‘he' references in policies, including when discussing staff positions.
The font has also been updated to make it easier to read on smart-phones and computers. Most of the policy updates are to simplify, merge multiple policies, and to bring into compliance with the School Act. Other updates are to fix conflicting policies — some of which hadn't been updated since 1999. These changes, the board members said during the meeting, will not change the practices of the district.
Thirty-six facility projects underway
Ian Currie, the director of operations, presented an update on the on-going facility upgrades, which are valued at $6 million.
Don Ross Middle School's boiler update will be ready for the school year, ahead of the heating season, which begins in October. Don Ross and Howe Sound Secondary also had energy-efficient lighting installed. The multiple-room renovation at Don Ross Middle School is also almost complete. Multiple schools had their exit doors updated, and Mamquam Elementary had its waterlines updated.
The Brackendale Elementary School playground, which received a $105,000 grant last year for new equipment, has been mostly completed. A few parts for the dual zipline will be installed once they've been sent from Germany.