The following highlights from the Board of Education meeting held on May 24, 2023 were submitted by Rob Zandee, Chairperson School District No. 53 (Okanagan-Similkameen).
Field trips - Two recent field trips were reviewed by staff and the Board 2, this included a May 15-16 field trip to Kamloops where the SD53 District Indigenous Teacher took eight students (grades 9-11) to a Leadership Summit to have an opportunity to collaborate with leadership students within the Okanagan Mainline Region.
In the second field trip Southern Okanagan Secondary School (SOSS) took approximately 35 English First Peoples students to Camp Boyle on May 29-30. The students gained further knowledge in land-based and experiential learning, with a focus on First Nations cultural practices.
Ministerial visit - Staff and the Board discussed the May 15 visit by the Minister of Education and Child Care and Minister of State for Child Care to the District who were in Oliver to make an announcement for Seamless Day Kindergarten expansion.
Trustees, district staff, and parents had a further opportunity to meet with the respective Ministers for a conversation about early learning and child care initiatives in the District and the impact on students and families.
Summer programs - School District No. 53 will once again be offering summer literacy/numeracy programs in elementary schools in the District for the first three weeks of July 2023. Schools are communicating with families and will be submitting class lists to the District.
This year, there will be 16 classes offered at five elementary schools, four of which will be numeracy focused and 12 reading focused. The dates of the summer sessions run from Tuesday, July 4 to Friday, July 21 from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Early childhood education - Beginning in September 2023, students can jump start their career in Early Childhood Education with Okanagan College in Penticton. Classes will be occurring online in the evenings and in-person sessions occurring on one Saturday per month in Penticton.
Students will achieve Early Childhood Education Assistant certification through completion of this program. This program is being offered as a result of a $25,000 per year grant (for three years) from the Ministry of Education to help with administration and program supports.
Mental health course - The Board discussed and passed a new Board Authority Authorized Mental Health Boost Course. The course aims to improve students’ understanding of their mental health and give them tools to improve their overall wellbeing.
In accordance with the goals for the Physical Health Education, this course will develop: an understanding of the many aspects of wellbeing, including physical, mental, and social; the skills needed for lifelong participation in a range of activities; and the knowledge and strategies for building respectful relationships, positive self-identity, self-determination, and mental wellbeing.
Budget - The Board also undertook the first reading of the 2023/2024 annual budget and thanked all partner groups who provided feedback and insight into its development.
The following are highlights from the Board of Education meeting held on May 24, 2023.
Accessibility plan - Staff reported to the Board that under the Accessible B.C. Act, school districts must develop an accessibility plan by September 1, 2023. Previous plans focused on forms of physical disabilities; however, now hidden disabilities such as anxiety, ADHD and depression must be taken into consideration.
Food program - The Ministry recently announced the Feeding Futures School Food Program Fund (FFSFP), a multi-year, dedicated funding to districts to increase food security for students by expanding or creating school food programs. SD53 will be receiving $350,000 which will be allocated to schools which are currently in the process of familiarizing themselves with the spending criteria, consultation and reporting requirements.
Capital projects - The Board passed its 2023/2024 Capital Funding Bylaw in the amount of $2.68 million. The funds granted under this bylaw will be utilized in the following ways: HVAC upgrade project at Osoyoos Elementary School ($2.25 million), and two new yellow fleet buses for a total of $431,000. These projects are to be completed by March 31, 2024.
Class action windfall - An earlier class action suit brought against Microsoft for creating barriers to competition has resulted in approximately $165 million being made available to K-12 schools and post-secondary institutions.
This money is in the form of vouchers to support schools across Canada to purchase new computer hardware. Schools in the district applied for this successfully and have been awarded vouchers for the purchase of hardware amounting to $230,000 which must be completed before June 30, 2028.