If you want to know what is happening in schools, just ask the students.
In 2018, SD73 launched the District Student Advisory Council, which consists of two representatives from every secondary school in the district, including Twin Rivers Education Centre, the Four Directions Program and Brock Middle School.
The council meets five times throughout the year to discuss issues and share input that each member gathers from their respective schools. This input is collated and shared as advice to the SD73 board of education.
That’s the technical part of the council. As a trustee, I have the privilege of sitting on this council, along with my colleague, trustee Heather Grieve. This is an amazing group and its insights are extremely thoughtful and honest.
Prior to each meeting, the representatives of each school are tasked with some questions. In turn, they take these questions back to their student body and get feedback. This feedback is then shared at the council meetings.
Here is a sample of what I have “heard” this year:
Students were relieved to be back in school after months of Zoom interactions. They missed their friends, the structure, the learning and their teachers. The transition was challenging.
They shared concerns about how to get their peer groups to take mask wearing seriously. They miss sports and other activities, but are deeply appreciative of opportunities that each school is offering to create safe connections.
What else helped with the transition? Teachers. Teachers are heroes.
Consistently we hear students are feeling more connected thanks to the extra effort of teachers who find ways to reach out to their students.
That’s not to say all students feel this way. We’ve heard reasons why students at times disconnect.
We’ve learned that the loss of sports and extracurricular activities has been challenging and has left kids feeling adrift.
We need to listen to our students to find out how we can help bring them back into the fold.
In terms of overall well-being, students feel there is room to expand on doing check-ins with pupils. This is great feedback.
There was positive feedback around meal programs offered at schools. Being fed and nourished is appreciated by students as they feel more mentally alert.
Their voices are also being heard in regard to discussions around school dress codes, vaping, addiction and racism.
On behalf of the board, I would like to thank our students, secondary learning services director of instruction Rick Keinlein and Sa-Hali secondary principal Rachel Sdoutz, as well as all teachers, administration and staff who work as part of SD73. The pandemic has been incredibly unkind, yet within our schools, there is great work being done by all.
If anything, I hope this column leaves the reader with two thoughts: that our future is in incredible hands given the calibre of our youth and that we have some amazing staff who are helping our young caterpillars get ready for flight.
Shelley Sims is a School District 73 trustee. SD73 columns appear monthly in the print edition of KTW and online at kamloopsthisweek.com. Sims can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. To comment on this column, email email@example.com.