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Upper Grand District School Board emerges from pandemic with new educational framework for 2022

Lessons learned during Covid help reshape Board’s plans

It seems almost redundant to say it, but what is truly at the foundational core of every educational organization is learning. That’s true for the students, but it’s also true for the staff and educators, trustees, and governing boards responsible for ensuring everyone in the system continues to learn through their educational experiences.

Applying the lessons learned during two years of COVID-19 disruptions across the entire organization is the primary objective of a new educational framework being implemented by the Upper Grand District School Board. And according to Director of Education Peter Sovran, the plan will help the Board emerge from the pandemic with a clear path forward for education across the entire district.

“Starting in January we outlined a process for a four-year plan that will be approved by our Board of Trustees by the end of the school year,” said Sovran, who took over the role from former Director Martha Rogers on September 1st, 2021. “The plan really sets the vision for the Upper Grand District School Board and sets a number of key strategic directions. From that we will be developing an annual plan where we will demonstrate how we can fulfill each of these new strategic directions on an annual basis.”

Despite the devastating impact COVID has had across the district, the province, the country and the world, Sovran said the Board learned some valuable lessons during the crisis that have helped shape the new plan being implemented in 2022.

“When we presented in January to the Board of Trustees our reopening plan coming back from the December break, we showed two slides worth of data where students and staff have had to switch to being in person to being fully online to being back in person to being online. When you look at the number of times we’ve gone back and forth, it’s been unbelievably disruptive. We need to acknowledge that. It’s been very hard on everyone. What we learned from these ongoing experiences is that people are always first. Their wellbeing always has to be front and centre, and that what we do each and every day in the classrooms – furthering the learning – is absolutely essential.”

According to Sovran, the new framework is based on upgrades to the traditional educational three Rs of reading, writing, and arithmetic.

“We’ve tilted those to focus on re-engaging, refreshing, and reimagining when it comes to our learning and our work environments throughout the Upper Grand District School Board,” said Sovran. “All of that will be done in a way that is informed by data, informed by evidence. It will be following our equity and inclusive approach to everything we do, and it continues us on our journey of truth and reconciliation. That’s really the framework that since September we have been applying to everything we’ve been doing.”

Sovran said the newly imagined 3Rs are really all about continuing to establish important human connections while building on the existing solid foundations that helped students and educators salvage their learning and teaching opportunities during the pandemic. By leveraging some of the learning that occurred as a direct result of the COVID crisis, the Board hopes to reimagine education as it looks to the future and not rush back to the way things were prior to March 2020.

“If you put those three things together, keeping in mind that people are the most important component of our entire organization, the re-imagining piece will allow us to do things differently, more effectively and more efficiently as we look to the future,” he said.

While it’s clear that online learning will continue to be a key pillar of educational programming, Sovran says that educators and in-class experiences will continue to be the most impactful way to engage students in the future.

“Teachers have never been as important as they are now, and the pandemic has shown us that,” he said. “The relationships that educators and school staff form with students are absolutely critical in terms of knowing how to instruct, lead and support them to further develop their skills. I can’t emphasize that enough. Educators remain the most critical piece in our education of students from kindergarten to graduation.”

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