Over the last few days I have had the opportunity, while out representing our school at local events, to speak to members of the general public. To my surprise many people have heard how we were open post March Break 2021 for many weeks while the public schools remained closed. The questions tend to come from two angles. The first is that families, of course, want continuous and in-person learning for their children (“will we open again?”). Secondly, families wonder how we could have remained open, from a COVID-19 management as well as a legal perspective.
In answering, let me first assure everyone that we opened legally and that Public Health & the Ministry of Education were both notified of our opening.
The legal framework from the Ministry that allowed us to open ultimately came down to the principal’s judgment. Were our students continuing to learn under the online environment or did they, in fact, need to be at school for their own betterment. I knew (and still know) that our students needed us to be open. I stand by my decision. It’s a decision that, given the same circumstances, I will make again.
Our school’s design, that of being purposefully small, is a significant factor that meant we could safely open our doors. Obviously our commitment to small classes (8 children maximum) existed long before COVID-19. It’s a commitment to our students and families that helps ensure success. Children learn best when they are known and not lost in a crowd. You need look no further than our academic results (two grade levels ahead of our peers on average in language and math) to see that this true. It just happened, in this case, to also mitigate our risks of opening to in person learning.
The greater risk for parents considering a change, as we enter the next school year, has little to do with COVID-19. Rather, public schools now have to battle significant learning deficits across all ages. Class sizes remain ludicrously too large, curricula is often merely ‘covered’ versus ‘mastered’, and, to top off the labour shortages, school boards may also have to deal with labour disruption and work to rule campaigns during the coming school year.
Meanwhile, we at Headwaters are looking forward to welcoming back our students into an environment that is positive, friendly, and where the learning is individualized for every student. The difference between us and the ‘system’ has always been described by our visitors as “astonishing”; this year, aside from being our best yet, will be no different.