ST. PAUL - With the first week of school now behind most students who attend schools within the St. Paul Education region, a more accurate breakdown of enrolment numbers and how many students opted for at-home learning, versus in-class, will soon be available.
While there were 1,855 submitted responses to the education region's survey that was sent out in August, those responses do not represent all students in the region. Based on the responses, 16 per cent of families opted for at-home learning to start the school year.
During the Sept. 9 school board meeting, Superintendent Glen Brodziak offered an update on how the first week of school went. He noted that "It's wonderful to have our kids back."
Students appear to be happy and staff members throughout the division were also happy to have been given an extra week to prep before students returned to class, heard the board.
Brodziak noted that school picture days will occur throughout the division and arrangements can be made with at-home learners, to ensure they are included in picture day at their respective schools. No group pictures will be taken though.
One late item that was been added to parents' back-to-school lists was sending a "breathable" container to school with their child, giving students somewhere safe to store their face masks when they are not being used. Brodziak encouraged parents to look for information on what is required.
Speaking further about masks, Brodziak explained that students can take their masks off in class if they are all facing to the front of the room. If they get up and walk around, they must put the mask back on.
Teachers are also allowed to take their masks off when they are speaking to students from the front of the room, as long as there is enough distance between the teacher and the first row of desks.
As previously reported, St. Paul Education will get just over $1 million in funding from the federal government to cover costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The funds will be provided in two payments.
Secretary-Treasurer Jean Champagne said administration is still working to determine what the division's expenses will be, but funds have already been designated to additional custodial time, PPE purchases, and increased staff.
"We did increase staff in a few areas," said Champagne. Two teachers and four Education Assistants have been added. A total of $750,000 of the funding has already been committed, said Champagne.
Brodziak explained that the two new teacher hires are meant to help with distant learners.
Extra resources are also required to provide additional supervision at schools. School schedules have staggered breaks, and multiple entrances are being used at the schools to keep students in the cohorts, which requires more supervision throughout the day. A motion to designate the funds are per administration's recommendation was approved by the board.
St. Paul Education has secured a number of Chromebooks and is offering parents a purchasing plan to ensure access to technology. The plan offers the Chromebooks at a significant discount to families.
The Chromebooks can be purchased by families who have students registered with the division and can be used by students doing in-class or at-home learning.
More information about the program is available on the St. Paul Education website.
Repairs to the west side of Racette Jr. High are expected to be done soon. In early July, a vehicle crashed into the side of the school during a police chase in St. Paul. The building was empty at the time, but significant damage resulted from the crash.
The division has been waiting on the proper materials to arrive to complete repairs to the building. About 90 per cent of the material had arrived, as of last week's meeting.