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LETTER: Students make the most of challenging school year

This certainly wasn’t the type of normal school year we expected it to be. It has taken some time for me to reflect on my own experience since the beginning of this pandemic.

I realize that I have been using two words non-stop, “unique” and “challenging” to describe my experience during these last number of months. We have gone from smoke in the fall to heat in the spring and all the while, working through a health pandemic.

It may seem like a lifetime ago, but we began our school year with smoke warnings and poor air quality, forcing our students and staff inside. We carried on through a year like no other with COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines impacting almost everything we do in our schools and community, and just as we were set to cross the finish line, heat warnings and record-breaking temperatures had us finishing the year in a way we never could have expected.

In my years with the Sooke School District we certainly have developed a reputation for being dynamic, dealing with exponential growth and adapting to changes. We’re unique and challenging at the best of times, though I am sure collectively we are hoping our future will be a little calmer and closer to normal as we slowly put this pandemic behind us.

This was a tough year for our students, families and staff, no question. As we take an opportunity to reflect, it’s no easy task to name and acknowledge the amazing accomplishments of our students and staff. In the face of change and uncertainty to see our organization and its people continually adapt, take extra precautions to keep each other safe, and excel in their own ways to care for one another, is inspiring to say the least. We celebrated inclusion within our schools, and, despite all the hardship, our graduates knocked this year out of the park by earning more than half a million dollars in community and early entrance scholarships to post-secondary institutions throughout Canada and the U.S. The list of accomplishments and pride we have of our students could go on for awhile.

We experienced some uphill battles this year. As a board of education, it is our duty to make some of the large-scale decisions that often affect a lot of families. While the outcome has worked out for the best, getting there has been a little bumpy this year with less connection than we all are used to. Despite the lived experience of each member of the board, we don’t always have the answers ourselves and therefore rely on feedback from our community. We strive to consult with parents, staff and families, along with our community, to help guide our decision-making.

As we look ahead, we see the district’s first strategic plan wrapping up, and we’re thrilled at the strides made in our three priority areas of learning, engagement and growth across SD62. Our next four-year strategic plan will be ready to roll out in a few weeks and builds upon our previous plan. It’s shaped by our current life in a pandemic and looks to the promising future of SD62. We look forward to sharing it with our communities later this summer.

The gratitude we have to students, staff and families in working with us to make the most of this year, cannot be measured. The resiliency, positivity and teamwork shown is humbling and heartwarming. Thank you, thank you, thank you! We look forward to a slightly less challenging 2021/2022 school year that continues to bring unique opportunities for our learning community.

Ravi Parmar, on behalf of

Sooke School District Board of Education