Despite the pandemic, students and teachers at Christ-King Catholic School are forging ahead successfully in unprecedented times.
“It’s been going really well so far,” said Tara McMillan, the school’s principal. “With all of the changes that have come in for us, and all the new procedures we have to put in place, we had a really good plan coming into September.
“Still, you are never 100 per cent sure how it’s going to roll out until you try it. But honestly, it’s been really quite smooth overall with very little in terms of hurdles or anything like that.”
McMillan pointed out that students have probably adjusted the fastest to the new routines.
“They are resilient – and I think they were just super thankful and happy to be back with their friends and their teachers, and to have some sense of normalcy,” she explained.
Students from Grades four to nine do have to wear masks, but again they’ve shown across the board a strong willingness to comply with it.
“It hasn’t been an issue – they put them on and we just carry on with our day,” said McMillan.
“We also try to provide as many opportunities as possible for them to take them off, too – when it is safe to do so. That way, they don’t have to wear them all day,” she explained. “They’ve become really, really proficient at putting them on properly and taking them off properly and just being really responsible with them! It’s been great to see,” she said.
“In terms of staff, things are certainly different. We maybe feel it more just in terms of the things that are ‘on pause’ right now – such as field trips and school-wide assemblies.
“We miss those things,” she said. “We know that those are the fun events, but we are really hopeful that as the year progresses, a few things can be loosened up a bit, and maybe we will be given directives that we can do some of these other things that we would normally be doing,” she said.
With music class for example, when the year started there was no singing permitted.
“But now, we can sing as long as the kids are masked up. So it’s those little changes like that we are very, very thankful for,” she said.
As principal, McMillan said a big part of her role these days is as ‘gatekeeper’.
“I take the information that is sent down to us and I share it with my staff and say, ‘This is kind of what we need to be doing at this point’. They have adjusted, and as a team we have also brainstormed different ways we can do things so that we can still be effective in our teaching and things like that.
“I also have an incredible staff here who has helped to make it easier on me,” she said.
“For our Monday morning assemblies, normally we would all go to the gym and have our morning liturgy which includes reading a Bible passage and also it’s to let the kids know what is happening that week and things like that. Now, we do this virtually,” she explained. “Each class watches it in their classroom. So it’s not exactly the same as being altogether, but we are making it work!”
Other safety measures, like staggered entry and exiting from the school, have been going well, too.
“With our dismissal procedures, we’ve actually had quite a few parents say that they kind of like this new system because it really does run so smoothly,” she added with a laugh.
“The kids are safe, and they know they are being supervised until they are handed over to their parents,” she explained. “So there are some positives that have come from this – definitely.”
In the meantime, McMillan noted how the whole pandemic experience has shown her how the world of education itself is ever-evolving.
“It has also shown how well we can adapt to things a educators,” she said.
“When we are given a challenge, it isn’t necessarily that we just shut down and say, ‘We can’t do this’. It’s automatically, ‘How do we change things up or alter things, so that we can accomplish this?’
“It has really demonstrated the resiliency of the educational world and it’s humbling and reassuring to know that no matter what is thrown at us, we just keep moving forward. And we do it with the best interests of the students at heart. So it’s encouraging to see that.”