During the last week of in-person learning in mid-March of 2020, our Delton School Council was planning a parent meet-and-greet with trustee Trisha Estabrooks. There would be doughnuts and a discussion about education budget cuts. Then everything changed. Not only were meetings cancelled in that first pandemic wave, we were also face-to-face with our kids 24/7. Parents and guardians doubled as teacher-assistants, technology experts, and screen-time managers. Many of us no longer had the usual critical support of grandparents and family friends.
Delton School Council consists of parents and guardians, school neighbours, our principal and vice principals, and teacher reps. We advocate for our kids and school as well as plan fundraisers to support ‘extras’ (though we debate how ‘extras’ like Chromebooks (a laptop using Google Chrome’s operating system) are not defined as ‘essentials’). The pandemic has reinforced one thing for our council members: Schools are not just critical for our children’s learning, but also to our community’s health and well-being.
The pandemic required the staff, students, and council to pivot. School assemblies, council meetings, teacher-parent conferences, written notices—all moved online. At Delton, and many other schools, Chromebooks were leant to families and affordable Internet was made available. So, while students were disappointed that their 2020 field trips were cancelled, our school council was able to fund purchasing 60 new Chromebooks to ensure no students were left behind because of lack of technology.
Another challenge for teachers as they moved into smaller, tighter cohorts, was that learning materials could no longer be easily shared. The school council was able to fund buying new math kits so that every classroom has a manipulatives (learning tool) allowing kids to learn numeracy by feel, touch, and fun. Outdoor field equipment specific to each classroom was also purchased for the kids’ more restrained recesses.
Over the year, many Delton students faced economic impacts of the pandemic. Many households had little to no cell service (because they couldn’t always afford their bill), making them impossible to reach when students stopped attending school (sometimes to care for relatives). Many families were faced with choices between rent and food. When the principal mentioned this at our school council meeting, members voted to create a $5,000 emergency fund. This enabled the school to purchase gift cards for families in need. The school’s family resources staff deliver the cards, and make sure families know about the school’s wrap-around services teams who can help in the longer term (from the Family Centre, Boys and Girls Clubs, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and E4C). Due to this small fund’s support, school staff have seen an increase in student attendance among those financially impacted by this pandemic.
Anyone in the community can join our school council and be part of this work! At Delton, we are excited to return to school when it is safe to do so. We have big plans for next year—a garden, a community cleanup, a family dance—and we’d love for you to be part of it. We invite you to come to our September 21 kickoff meeting. Find more details on our Delton Elementary School Council Facebook page: facebook.com/deltonschoolcouncil.
And a giant thank you to all of the staff in our amazing public school system. May you rest well this summer!