There has been seemingly no end to the challenges for local schools to adapt to shifting COVID-19 restrictions this past year, but resilient students and teachers are making the best of it.
At Stettler’s Christ-King Catholic School, it’s been all about thinking outside of the box, being creative and staying adaptable, said Principal Tara McMillan.
“Because we can’t do our typical activities that we do at the end of the year, we’ve been looking for some fun activities to incorporate to help keep everyone motivated right until the end of the year,” she explained.
“We saw that the Town of Stettler in conjunction with the County of Stettler and the Stettler Library were looking to put together care packages for seniors for Seniors’ Week,” she said.
“They wanted cards to add in there, and we figured, well – let’s do this! So all the students made a card – sometimes two or three – in their art classes. They’d write nice messages in them, and then we dropped them off at the town. The kids were pretty proud – they were happy to be involved,” she said.
Looking to the grad season, there are of course changes due to restrictions as well.
“We can’t run our graduations like we typically do, so we are being creative. So for our Kindergarten, on June 17th, we are actually doing a Kindergarten Grad Picnic. Parents will be invited to be outside with their kids, and they will be able to have some treats. The kids can wear their graduation caps, plus there will be pictures,” she said. “We will showcase what they have done for the year,” she said.
“It’s definitely been an adjustment – the whole last year and a half. But you know, we are managing and everyone has been staying really positive about it,” she explained. “Honestly, I would say that this year has been pretty smooth because we knew coming in that we would have to be prepared to make those last minute changes,” she said.
“So unlike last spring, which went as well as it could, right from the get-go this past September we started going over that whole tech piece with our kids and doing the Google classroom from K to Grade nine so that if we did all of a sudden have to change gears, the kids would be prepared for it,” she added.
“Even the last two weeks that we were out, it was fairly smooth – we were of course very excited to be back in our building – this is where we want to be. But for us all to weather the storm and to have that ‘circuit breaker’ things did go pretty well,” she said.
“We handed out that technology and it was a really smooth transition – and the kids took home what they needed. Our teachers were prepped and had packages ready to go so it was pretty seamless to be quite honest,” she said.
“It’s not the first time that we had to go through it, so my teachers are more aware of the technology that’s out there to be used, and we have so many more options out there that are at our fingertips. It’s definitely easier to keep the kids engaged and make those transitions if we have to,” she said.
Looking ahead to a post-COVID-19 world also brings much hope.
“I think everyone is going to have that renewed appreciation for everything we are able to do again. All those additional things we do at the school that just make it really, really fun to be here such as field trips, assemblies and big things like that.
“School is so much more than just learning the curriculum – it’s that social time with our friends, and creating those relationships and those fun memories in our building,” she said.
“I also think there are a lot of aspects that we have incorporated that we probably won’t do away with – like that whole ‘tech piece’. Obviously paper and pencil are still important, but there are so many other opportunities to be connected with the greater world,” she said.
She mentioned how the students have enjoyed ‘virtual’ field trips, for example. “It’s great what is being offered! There are a lot of opportunities that are offered through technology that we definitely are more proficient at these days.
“The students amaze me – every single day. Their willingness to do what they have to do in order to be here. They’ve just stepped up to the plate,” she said. “I’ve seen them grow in so many ways, because they have seen the world around them change so dramatically and so quickly – they’ve really had to keep up with it.
“We are also excited for next September with that strong possibility of no restrictions. We are going to hit the ground running at 150 per cent – I can tell you that!
“We’ve got big plans.”