Stu­dent Ser­vices re­spond­ing to needs of Chi­nook stu­dents dur­ing the pan­demic

Prairie Post (East Edition) - - NEWS - By Matthew Lieben­berg


The Stu­dent Ser­vices pro­gram of the Chi­nook School Di­vi­sion has been pro­vid­ing sup­port ser­vices to stu­dents and par­ents while home learn­ing takes place dur­ing the COVID-19 pan­demic.

Su­per­in­ten­dent of Learn­ing Bob Vavra pre­sented the Stu­dent Ser­vices mon­i­tor­ing re­port to trus­tees dur­ing a reg­u­lar Chi­nook School Di­vi­sion board meet­ing, June 8.

The meet­ing took place at the Chi­nook Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­tre in Swift Cur­rent, but guests or me­dia could not at­tend due to the pre­sent pub­lic health re­stric­tions on the size of in­door pub­lic gath­er­ings. Vavra there­fore spoke to the Prairie Post about his re­port dur­ing a tele­phone in­ter­view, June 10.

He felt the abil­ity of Stu­dent Ser­vices to deal with the COVID-19 sit­u­a­tion and to con­tinue to meet the needs of stu­dents while they were learn­ing from home is an im­por­tant high­light from the pro­gram’s ac­tiv­i­ties dur­ing the past year.

“It is a big shift, be­cause Stu­dent Ser­vices deals with the stu­dents that need more sup­port than most other stu­dents,” he said. “A lot of time that’s done face to face, and what we had to do was to shift our think­ing a lit­tle bit and we moved to a lot of on­line sup­port. We cre­ated web­sites and re­sources for both par­ents and stu­dents, and we also con­nected with each Stu­dent Ser­vices teacher about the plans for those in­ten­sive needs kids.”

The pur­pose of the Stu­dent Ser­vices pro­gram is to pro­vide spe­cial­ized ser­vices to stu­dents who need more as­sis­tance than what is avail­able in class­rooms.

In some in­stances, the sup­port to stu­dents dur­ing the pan­demic took place through per­sonal visits in an out­side lo­ca­tion.

“It’s chal­leng­ing work­ing within the so­cial dis­tanc­ing en­vi­ron­ment, but in some cases we did go to al­ter­na­tive lo­ca­tions out­side the school build­ings and main­tained that safe dis­tance to pro­vide sup­ports to those chil­dren and to pro­vide respite op­por­tu­ni­ties to the par­ents,” he said.

Stu­dent Ser­vices pro­vided spe­cial­ized sup­ports to 140 stu­dents dur­ing the reg­u­lar 2019-20 school year be­fore the pan­demic. These sup­ports con­tin­ued since the start of the pub­lic health re­stric­tions in March, and sup­ports were also pro­vided to other stu­dents who strug­gled to ad­just to the new sit­u­a­tion.

“This was an anx­ious time for lots of stu­dents,” he said. “We did have a lit­tle bit of time be­fore the shut­down was com­ing. Our coun­sel­lors con­nected with a lot of stu­dents who were ex­pe­ri­enc­ing anx­i­ety or is­sues with the COVID sit­u­a­tion or other sit­u­a­tions in their life. So we made those con­nec­tions, and our coun­sel­lors con­tin­ued to check in and have coun­selling ses­sions with those stu­dents, ei­ther on­line or on the phone over the last 16 weeks.”

Stu­dent Ser­vices also helped to con­nect stu­dents to other or­ga­ni­za­tions such at Men­tal Health, The Cen­tre and Fresh Start, which will pro­vide coun­selling sup­port dur­ing the sum­mer.

“Our com­mu­nity part­ners are very sup­port­ive and will­ing to take on some men­tal health sup­ports for stu­dents, but also for fam­i­lies as well, if fam­i­lies need some sup­port there,” he said. “So we will be re­fer­ring some our stu­dents and fam­i­lies to that. It’s vol­un­tary, they can take part in that, and we’re also look­ing at a sum­mer pro­gram for lit­er­acy sup­ports with the United Way, but we haven’t fi­nal­ized it yet.”

Stu­dent Ser­vices was even able to con­tinue a nutrition pro­gram dur­ing the home learn­ing phase af­ter the start of the pan­demic.

“We pro­vide nutrition sup­port to ap­prox­i­mately 150 stu­dents in the di­vi­sion on an on­go­ing ba­sis,” Vavra said. “We wanted to make sure we had the op­por­tu­nity to do that with stu­dents as they work from home, and so with our trans­porta­tion sys­tem we ar­ranged to have pack­ages for fam­i­lies that wished to par­tic­i­pate in that, be­cause we didn’t want to take that away from stu­dents and fam­i­lies as they moved to the learn­ing at home.”

The par­tic­i­pa­tion was less than the 150 stu­dents who re­ceived nutrition sup­port when they at­tended school be­fore the pan­demic. He felt this was prob­a­bly due to the fact that sev­eral other com­mu­nity groups started food pro­grams to sup­port fam­i­lies dur­ing the pan­demic.

“So the demand wasn’t what we thought it would be, but there are still def­i­nitely some fam­i­lies that are par­tic­i­pat­ing and get­ting nutrition pro­grams sup­plied from Chi­nook,” he said.

The Stu­dent Ser­vices pro­gram was able to con­tinue with the an­nual plan­ning process for stu­dents, even though the pan­demic dis­rupted the reg­u­lar plan­ning for­mat.

“The plan­ning process for those stu­dents starts in the spring, and it in­volves con­nect­ing with par­ents and teach­ers and spe­cial­ists to map out what the learn­ing plan will be for the next year,” he said. “So we did that in a dig­i­tal en­vi­ron­ment. We did that through phone calls to par­ents, through we­bi­nars to par­ents and through we­bi­nars from dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tions to cen­tral­ized teams that would sup­port that process, and we’re happy how that went.”

An­other high­light dur­ing the past year was the hir­ing of an ex­pe­ri­enced be­hav­iour coach to pro­vide sup­ports to stu­dents who ex­pe­ri­ence bar­ri­ers to learn­ing.

“She has been sup­port­ing over 40 stu­dents di­rectly this year along with fam­i­lies and teach­ers, and that has re­ally helped with some of the bar­ri­ers to learn­ing that these stu­dents ex­pe­ri­ence,” he said. “So that has been a very pos­i­tive thing for our Stu­dents Ser­vice team this year. Also, we’ve worked with some out­side agen­cies such as Fresh Start to sup­port learn­ers that have dif­fer­ent needs. It’s ben­e­fi­cial to have them in an en­vi­ron­ment that’s a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent than a tra­di­tional school­ing en­vi­ron­ment.”

The Stu­dent Ser­vices pro­gram has evolved to be­come more sys­tem­atic to sup­port stu­dent needs and it will con­tinue to ad­just to use tech­nol­ogy to work with stu­dents and fam­i­lies. Vavra said they have tried to in­stall check­points and screens at dif­fer­ent lev­els, for ex­am­ple there are speech and lan­guage screens and hear­ing tests for all stu­dents in kinder­garten. There are screens at Grade 3 and Grade 9 for psy­cho­log­i­cal ed­u­ca­tional as­sess­ments.

“We see which stu­dents may ben­e­fit from those as­sess­ments and then we put plans in place and sys­tems and strate­gies to im­prove their learn­ing based on that,” he men­tioned. “What we found by be­ing a lit­tle bit more sys­tem­atic and us­ing those screens is we can re­ally nar­row the fo­cus and pro­vide sup­ports to the stu­dents that re­ally need it.”

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