Another school year, and Rob Stewart couldn’t be more excited. He knows he will experience a buzz today from seeing staff and students streaming back into the “Sidney Community”.
“There is something about starting a new school year every year,” he says.
That feeling of a fresh start never gets old, and is probably heightened when accompanied by change. This year, the Sidney family welcomes two additions: Abby Bristow will be the kindergarten teacher, while Jessica Steed will teach Grade 1 students.
“Both have been spending significant hours in our building over their summer to prepare themselves to welcome their students,” says Stewart, who became Sidney Street School principal two years ago.
Jonell Buss, meanwhile, will be using her expertise as part of Sidney’s Student Services team.
To go with the new year, the school will also have an extra-bright look, thanks to the cleaning efforts of custodial staff, and the introduction of LED lighting.
The main server has also been updated.
“Our school custodial staff has done another amazing job cleaning and polishing the school to brighten the return of the students and staff,” says Stewart. “Their hard work often goes unnoticed but needs to be recognized. It is hard work.
“The Chinook Division Maintenance teams have worked very hard to update the main server in the school. Which, if done properly, would not even be recognized by most people.
“On a brighter perspective, we have almost completely updated our lights to LED from the fluorescents. This will be a visibly positive change for the classrooms.”
Updated lighting, however, can do nothing about the shadow cast by COVID-19. Inevitably, the pandemic will continue to have an impact.
“This is an ongoing discussion,” says Stewart. “Our senior administration is in contact with Saskatchewan Health. As leaders, they share updated information with school admin, which in turn shares and updates the staff and students.”
Stewart says the school is prepared to do what is best to keep students and staff educated in a healthy manner.
“At this time, masks are not required by students and staff in the classrooms. All staff and students are required to wear masks in common areas. All details of COVID protocols for parents and students are available on Chinook’s website. Our school and teachers will continue to do their best to update information through social media.”
One of Sidney School’s big successes last year was its partnership with the Salvation Army in providing a lunch program.
Every Friday, the Salvation Army turned up to the school to deliver meals for students. The program, says Stewart, will continue.
“This is exciting but unfortunately our current funding will only allow us to do this once a month. We will be working hard to squeak out all we can to sustain the program.”
Asked about the main challenges in the year ahead, Stewart says the school was able to work very hard to help students see significant growth in their learning last year. This was made possible by the sterling efforts of teachers and support staff.
“We were fortunate last year to have some additional funds that were made available by our Chinook Teachers Association and the Chinook Division to be able to hire some additional support staff,” he says.
“This year, we may be seeing some students that have not been in a regular learning environment for almost a year and a half. Just getting back to what is a regular day can be a challenge.
“As with any year, we will be welcoming and supportive of all students and staff. This is the most important part of a successful learning platform.”