Submitted by Justine Bell, OCDSB School Trustee for Somerset-Kitchissippi
We have a lot to reflect on and to take into account as we prepare to go back to school.
I have the honour of being on the receiving end of many questions and concerns. What I am hearing loud and clear is that parents, educators and my neighbours in Somerset-Kitchissippi want schools to be places where all students can thrive.
Last year, as we moved through many moments in survival mode — educators, administrators, parents — we all did our best to address the basic needs of students. What became clear is that there is much that is beyond our control, and even that of a trustee’s. We make the best decisions we can in the moment with the information, evidence, advice, hours of sleep and budgets we have.
This coming year, as we take account of what matters for students — mental health, clean air, connection, safe spaces, sports, arts — we will all have to keep on working and do better than our best to demand of our political representatives what is necessary for students to thrive.
We need cross-Ontario standards for ventilation in schools that will stop the spread of COVID-19 variants; we need an immediate increase to funding in support of mental health initiatives; we need support to ensure all students can thrive. Last year, we saw clearly how systemic discrimination exists in education, and that resources must be directed to dismantle it and empower students that have been left behind.
There is so much work to do, and I need your help. Please demand that we all do what is necessary to return to school safe and sound.