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Apr 14
Kick COVID to the curb in the final quarter!

Surrey Schools Elementary Health & Safety Video from Surrey Schools on Vimeo.


We're so close! Monday (April 19) marks the final quarter of the 2020-21 school year, and with just a few months left, the district is reminding everyone to be mindful of their health and safety as we head into the home stretch.

Now more than ever, it is important we continue to remain vigilant to ensure face-to-face learning can occur safely in our classrooms while limiting the spread of illness. Our ongoing safety measures include daily health checks, the Grade 4-12 mask mandate, frequent hand washing and physical distancing.

"The board would like to extend a big thanks to our students, parents and staff for their efforts to keep our schools safe since the start of the school year," said Laurie Larsen, Chair of the Surrey Board of Education. "With summer just around the corner, we hope to see our district finish strong as we continue to be diligent with our health and safety protocols, in line with the provincial health orders."

Here are a few easy ways to remember the district's health and safety protocols:

  • Check Up: Every day, check to see how you are feeling, and stay home if you aren't feeling well. If you have symptoms, get tested.
  • Back Up: Maintain physical distance of two metres where possible, including within your cohort. Try to keep your hands to yourself and only play with others in your class.
  • Wash Up: Wash or sanitize your hands regularly, including after playing outside, going to the bathroom, when putting on or removing your mask, and before and after eating. Be sure to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • Mask Up: All K-12 staff and Grade 4-12 students must wear a mask indoors. K-3 students are encouraged to wear a mask. Ensure your mask is clean and dry, is a good fit, and covers your nose and mouth fully. And remember, don't touch your face or play with your mask.

 

We understand it's been a long year for everyone, and we thank you all for your efforts that have allowed our schools to remain open through the pandemic. Keeping schools open keeps children and youth active and social with their peers, which is vital to their well-being.

Your vigilance has made face-to-face learning possible for thousands of students and staff, and we are grateful for our school communities that are protecting each other and following protocols consistent with public health guidelines and recommendations.

For all that you do to keep our schools safe, thank you.

Resources:

Apr 13
District projecting a budget shortfall for 2021-22 school year

While discussions regarding the Surrey Schools 2021-22 preliminary budget are ongoing, the district is projecting a shortfall of approximately $43M for the upcoming school year.

The anticipated shortfall is directly related to impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, including a drastic reduction in immigration and resulting decrease in the number of new students enrolling in our schools. We have also a seen a significant drop in revenue from facility rentals and international student enrolment, as well as increased costs stemming from blended (online/in-person) learning programs.

Superintendent Jordan Tinney is scheduled to share a presentation about the implications of the pandemic on the budget with the Surrey Board of Education at the April 14 public board meeting.

"As always, we are committed to ensuring our students continue to have access to quality education and programs," said Trustee Terry Allen, who chairs the district budget committee. "We will make every effort to keep any cuts as far away from the classroom as possible."

Last fall, the district implemented enhanced safety protocols that included hiring more than 130 caretakers for our schools. We were able to balance the current year's budget thanks to one-time pandemic-response funding from both the federal and provincial governments.

We were grateful to receive this funding, but we are operating under the assumption that these funds will not be available to our district in the coming school year.

In the coming weeks, the board and district staff will discuss strategies to mitigate the anticipated budget shortfall. The goal is to finalize plans share a final budget publicly on May 12. 

Apr 12
April 12 video update from Supt. Jordan Tinney: Vaccinations, the importance of protocols & an expression of gratitude


As we look toward the final stretch of the school year Superintendent Jordan Tinney discusses vaccinations, the importance of safety protocols in and outside of schools and recaps some of the accomplishments staff, students and the community have achieved thus far.

He notes that in just over a week, 90% of school-based district staff were immunized.

Tinney also addresses the importance of health and safety protocols during the quarter turnaround, when secondary students head into their final quarter of the school year. It's still critical, particularly with increased COVID-19 case numbers recently across B.C., to follow the basics:

• Remain physically distanced

• Wash hands

• Don't touch your face

• Stay home if you have symptoms

• If you have symptoms, get tested

• Wear a mask where required and use proper care with your mask


"Once again, transmission in our schools mirrors transmission in our community. As our community cases go up, it's all the more reason to make sure we're doing all we can," Tinney says, adding he knows it's been a long road and people are tired.

Keeping our schools open for eight months through a pandemic has been no small feat, he says, and has required dedication, perseverance, courage and professionalism from everyone.

"I thank each and every one of you for your courage, dedication, tenacity, and care for our students," says Tinney. "Our schools are not just part of the community, they are the heart of our community."

You can also view the video at www.surreyschools.ca/covid19, where there are written transcripts in English, Punjabi, Chinese and Arabic.

Apr 09
Thousands of Surrey Schools staff receive COVID-19 vaccine
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Coyote Creek Elementary teacher Patrick Reynolds gets his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

In just two weeks, Fraser Health has immunized over 90 per cent of school-based employees in Surrey and White Rock with a COVID-19 vaccine. This includes staff with the Surrey School District and independent schools in the area.

Since the provincial government announced early access to vaccines for K-12 school-based staff, 10,919 teachers, principals and support staff have received their first dose. The district is Surrey's largest employer with 11,760 employees, including 6,394 teachers and 2,537 education assistants.

"Our district is very thankful that Fraser Health was able to offer our school-based staff access to the vaccine," said Laurie Larsen, Chair of the Surrey Board of Education. "Uptake from all of our schools was very high and staff have been impressed with how quick and efficient the entire process has been."

The district and health region worked together to coordinate vaccine appointments by district zone based on rates of community transmission, beginning with City Centre and Panorama-Sullivan, and later expanding to Newton-Fleetwood, Guildford, Cloverdale/Clayton and South Surrey/White Rock.

Superintendent Jordan Tinney said the district is pleased to see the high rate of uptake from eligible Surrey Schools staff in an effort to reduce community transmission of COVID-19.

"Over the coming weeks, we expect these immunizations will help protect our students, our staff and our communities as learning continues through the rest of the school year," he said.

Currently, only school-based staff are eligible.

All British Columbians that have not yet received the vaccine, regardless of current eligibility status, are encouraged to register at www.getvaccinated.gov.bc.ca/s/. Registration will ensure you receive an invitation to book when you are eligible.

Information about the COVID-19 vaccines can be found on the HealthLink BC website and is available in 12 different languages.

The COVID-19 vaccines that have been approved by Health Canada are safe, effective and will save lives. Vaccines do more than protect the people getting vaccinated, they also protect everyone around them. The more people in a community who are immunized and protected from COVID-19, the harder it is for COVID-19 to spread.

Reminder: Everyone must continue to follow Provincial Health Officer orders and guidelines and continue to practice COVID-19 safety behaviours even after receiving the vaccine.

Apr 08
Funding announced for new elementary school in South Newton

A new elementary school is coming to South Newton, offering 655 seats for students in the area as the Surrey School District continues its rapid growth.

On Thursday, the Ministry of Education announced $38.9 million in funding for the school, which is expected to open in 2025 on 148th Street, adjacent to Goldstone Park. The district will provide an additional $5 million, and the school will also feature a neighbourhood learning centre that will provide childcare spaces for students before and after school.

"We're thrilled to have funding in place, so we can move forward with building a new school in an area of our city that continues to grow and attract young families," said Laurie Larsen, chair, Surrey Board of Education. "Having sufficient, innovative and inspiring learning spaces for students is so important, and the fact this new school will be built with sustainability and energy conservation in mind makes a good situation even better."

The school will be built with energy efficiency in mind, in support of the CleanBC initiative, with greenhouse gas reduction strategies. This is expected to reduce the school's carbon dioxide emissions by 89% compared to what a standard new school would produce.

Additionally, the district has the support from the Ministry to develop business cases for additional expansion projects to further the district's efforts to reduce the number of portables in Surrey. Future projects in the district's capital plan include additions to Sunnyside Elementary, Morgan Elementary, K.B. Woodward Elementary and White Rock Elementary.

For more information, see the Ministry of Education's press release.

Apr 08
Panorama Ridge Secondary student named 2021 Loran Scholar

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Chidi Okarah was headed to her AP bio test on Friday, March 12 when she got the call.

"I went to a corner of the school, all my friends were around me, and the woman on the phone said, 'We're proud to announce you're a 2021 Loran Scholar,'" recalled the Grade 12 Panorama Ridge Secondary student.

"I started screaming and so did everyone around me. We were all sharing in the moment, but then a second later, I hear in my ear, 'But you can't tell anyone,'" she added with a laugh. "I had to do some damage control and keep quiet for the next two weeks – it definitely tested my patience."

Okarah is the latest student from the Surrey School District to be named a Loran Scholar, one of up to 36 students across the country who are chosen each year to receive a scholarship worth $100,000. The foundation recognizes promising young Canadians based on integrity, courage, compassion, grit and a high level of personal autonomy.

Okarah was recognized for her work as the environmental coordinator on the BC Youth Council, making efforts to reduce single-use plastics in her community, including local restaurants. She was also recognized for engaging other youth as a student council executive, furthering African culture and cultural identity with the African Stages Association of BC, and her involvement in various Model United Nations Conferences.

"I was super interested in public policy and social justice, so I attended my first Model UN conference as a delegate and from there I was hooked," she said. "I really like discussing major topics in the world and trying to find solutions."

Asked about what inspires her to participate in so many organizations, Okarah said it's simply part of her nature.

"I really love seeing youth taking action and doing things to better their community, and I realized all the activities I was doing were conduits for me to empower youth to take action in their communities and get real work done on issues that they care about," she said. "I'd never before realized that youth could do those things."

With only a few months left before graduation, Okarah is looking ahead to post-secondary. She has figured out what she wants to do, it's just a matter of where.

"With Loran, they would like us to explore some new provinces in Canada, so I'm really hoping for McMaster, but I'm also thinking about McGill or U of Alberta," she said. "I'm pursuing an undergraduate degree either in nursing or health science, and I'd love to maybe attend med school after that. I've always wanted to work in healthcare, and the people at Loran are just amazing with so much support guiding me through the whole process."

Congratulations to 2021 Loran Scholar Chidi Okarah!

Apr 07
New Surrey Schools career program for aspiring Indigenous educators

A new program in the Surrey School District is opening up more avenues for Indigenous students considering a career in education.

Called Tah-tul-ut Indigenous Education Pathways, the program is in partnership with Simon Fraser University and designed to help Indigenous students get a head start on working as an educator.

"We wanted to open up any doors to Indigenous students who may be interested in exploring a path towards working in education and wanted to make that easy and accessible," explained Mark Flynn, Principal of Careers Education at Surrey Schools.

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On top of completing their Grade 12 courses in their final year, students in the program will take a full-credit course in the Faculty of Education at SFU, Intro to Reflective Practice. The course is designed to explore and discover how Indigenous identity can help shape the work of educators. In their second semester of Grade 12, students will take the five-month Education Assistant (EA) program through Surrey College, and be a certified Education Assistant with a specialized focus in Indigenous education.

"So not only can they complete an SFU course and begin post-secondary education early, but they also receive EA training and, if they later decide they want to continue on in post-secondary and work towards becoming a teacher, we encourage them to do that," said Flynn, adding that ideally, the students would then become Surrey Schools employees and work with and encourage other Indigenous students.

According to Gordon Powell, recently retired Principal of Aboriginal Education, while the EA program at Surrey College is a program designed to train and certify EAs, it's the additional SFU course that makes the Tah-tul-ut Indigenous Education Pathways program unique.

"It shines a spotlight on developing understanding of what it means to be an urban Indigenous person, and how Aboriginal identity can help inform their practice," he explained. "This in turn, allows them greater understanding when working with Indigenous children and youth during the course of their work."

Having kicked off its inaugural semester in September, the first group of students is currently attending classes and will graduate in the summer of 2021.

"The idea is that at the end of their practicum, if they're successful, they can apply to Surrey Schools to work as an EA, and it is a great way to get into the field," said Powell, adding that SFU's professional development program for teachers also allows participants of this program to "fast-track" their way to becoming a teacher. "So for those who are interested, they can chip away at their course credits and enter into this laddering program to become a teacher."

Asked of the cultural significance of the program, Powell said it's important for Indigenous students to see themselves reflected in mentorship and teaching positions.

"Surrey has approximately 3,100 Indigenous students, but very few of those kids are from the local nations," explained Powell. "Families that have moved here, they're not in their traditional territory, they may or may not be closely connected to their traditions, so for some kids there's a bit of disconnect… so we thought this might be an opportunity to help support that as well."

Flynn hopes the program will become self-sustaining, so that as more students participate year after year, the district will see more Indigenous staff hired as a result.

"Our hope is that these students will come back into our system and serve as role models and inspire our other Indigenous students."

To learn more about the Tah-tul-ut Indigenous Education Pathway program, click here.


* A public information session for interested parents and students will also be held virtually on April 15 at 6:30 p.m. via Microsoft Teams and will be available to watch here.

Apr 06
Stigma-Free Society presentations for students and teachers to balance our minds

balancingourminds.pngSurrey Schools and the Stigma-Free Society are giving teachers and students tools to address mental health in the classroom with a series of presentations titled Balancing Our Minds, aimed at Grade 5-7 students.

Starting today, classes throughout the district will have an opportunity to participate in these presentations, which aim to reduce the stigma around mental health and inspire resilience in students. The presentations take place on April 6, 13 and 20 from 1 to 2:30 p.m.

The Stigma-Free Society is a Vancouver-based registered charity that has designed programs providing education about stigmas with an emphasis on mental health and peer support, particularly for those facing mental health challenges with a special focus on youth.

The presentations will include professional documentary-style videos on mental health educational topics and personal stories, live presentations from speakers sharing their own experiences with stigma and mental health, and training for students on how to use the society's student mental health toolkit and online resources. Classes will have an opportunity to interact live on the YouTube chat and ask questions.

For more information, visit stigmafreesociety.com

Apr 06
Surrey Schools celebrates support staff for World Autism Month

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L.A. Matheson Secondary education assistant Yolanta Nelson with Grade 10 student Leo Singer.


April is World Autism Month, and the district is taking the opportunity to recognize the invaluable work our education assistants, applied behaviour analysis support workers and support staff do to improve the learning experience for students with autism.

As of September, Surrey Schools has 1,947 students on the autism spectrum, with a wide variety of challenges that our support staff navigate daily –  from assistance with social skills in peer groups to severe behavioural issues and complex emotional needs.

"We have EAs and ABA SWs who provide a range of support for our kids with autism spectrum disorder in Surrey schools, from minimal support all the way to full-time, one-on-one support," said Jennifer Copp, the special education helping teacher for students with complex needs. "They support them through activities of daily living and every aspect of their day, from the time they arrive at school until they go home."

Yolanta Nelson, an education assistant at L.A. Matheson Secondary, works with Grade 10 student Leo Singer, who is non-verbal and is in the school's intensive intervention program. Since September, she said he's made leaps and bounds in being able to convey his needs, thanks to small steps to address his issues.

"Leo's biggest challenge is communicating his needs because he has such a limited vocabulary and difficulties bridging the communication gap," said Nelson. "I've seen him become more comfortable in situations around the school and with a bigger group of support workers. He has made considerable progress, and he's shown me typing and problem-solving skills too."

"Because of Yolanta's ability to connect with Leo as a person and not just see a disability, she's been able to establish trust and a really strong rapport, and has been able to teach him functional communication that others can understand," said Copp. "She's able to teach him a series of skills that he's transferring to real-world situations that are making him more independent and able to engage in the world in a more meaningful way."

Part of that independence includes taking Singer on outings to stores and coffee shops, places that initially caused him a lot of anxiety. But as he has gotten used to seeing new places with Nelson, Copp said his strides have extended to his home life.

Recently, Singer experienced his first seizure, but thanks to Nelson's work, he was able to remain calm while being looked after by doctors and nurses in hospital.

"The skills she's taught him allowed Leo to be patient and able to receive medical care," said Copp. "We have some incredible EAs who are so dedicated, and when a parent is able to see their child making progress because of the care and connection that staff has with them, then they know they're safe.

"His mom and dad are over the moon with the progress he's made, they couldn't be happier. They're just incredibly grateful for the support that's been given."

Likewise, Nelson said she is proud to see how far Singer has come and hopes the skills he has learned with her will continue to serve him well into adulthood.

"I just see him building confidence in himself as an individual. He has the confidence to use different ways to communicate now," said Nelson. "It just makes my heart swell because there were so many people who maybe thought where he was at was where he was going to be, and that's not the case."

Thank you to all of our student support staff for all your hard work!

Apr 02
Surrey music students jam & perform virtually with Sunshine Band Club

The student-led Sunshine Band Club held an online performace at Christmas, and has a spring concert coming up on April 4.


In-person concerts may be cancelled for now, but that won't stop the music for the Sunshine Band Club, a new student-led initiative for musically inclined students in Surrey and beyond.

In response to the pandemic's effect on live performance, students from Fraser Heights Secondary and Fleetwood Park Secondary formed the Sunshine Band Club, an inclusive group for secondary music students to collaborate, produce and perform together virtually. Since late September, the group has hosted two virtual concerts, while also putting their musical efforts toward COVID-19 relief.

"We thought it would be great to host concerts to raise money for the VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation," said Fraser Heights Grade 11 student and Sunshine Band Club president David Liu. "We raised more than $2,000, it was really successful and we got more than 1,000 views."

"It was exciting to see the donation amount rising, knowing it would go towards helping COVID relief," said vice-president Kevin Hua, a Grade 11 student at University Hill Secondary in Vancouver and former student at Fleetwood Park Secondary.

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The group started with a handful of students performing individual instrumental tracks and combining their performances into videos. Following their first concert, word spread about the club and more students joined, bringing their current membership to more than 50 music students in Surrey and neighbouring cities.

"I heard how they exceeded their goal and joined shortly after," said club secretary and Grade 11 Fraser Heights student Chelsea Kim. "I was really impressed by their efforts in fundraising."

"I felt like I could connect to people outside of my friend circle and meet new people who had the same passion with music and are wanting to work together towards a common goal," said Maggie Wang, the club's director of marketing and a Grade 11 student at Guildford Park Secondary.

The group is open to secondary students of all skill levels, with the main criteria being a willingness to commit to practice sessions and participate in biweekly meetings.

Heading into spring, the club has scheduled a third concert, showcasing both group and individual performances. They are also discussing putting on a community concert to reach an audience outside of school communities.

Liu said he hopes the club grows and other students are inspired to join, and that future performances continue to be a positive experience for both students and virtual concert-goers.

"We feel like this club is something the community really needed," he said. "It's given a great sense of accomplishment for all of us."

The Spring Concert takes place Sunday, April 4 at 7 p.m. For more information about the club, visit the Sunshine Band Club website.

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