Back to school is an opportunity for schools, students, and families to ReConnect.
As schools begin 2021-22 school year, Saskatoon Public Schools is offering additional resources and supports to help students reengage with their learning following a challenging year of learning.
The COVID-19 pandemic saw many students and families lose their connection to learning and school. Families may have relocated, students may have allowed their studies or attendance to lapse, or involvement in online learning may have broken links with their school community.
"The Ministry of Education has provided some additional funding to support our school division and the response to the COVID-19 pandemic," said Superintendent of Education Colleen Norris. "We know attendance is critical to learning so we have used these funds in a way that we think is going to help engage families and make them feel comfortable with returning to school."
ReConnect is a key component of the school division's post-pandemic learning plan. Beginning in August and continuing into the school year, outreach workers will work hand-in-hand with selected elementary schools and collegiates. They will contact students and families to rebuild or strengthen connections with their school, identify impediments or factors that affected attendance, and connect them with additional community-based supports if needed.
The initiative includes support for Grade 1 students who didn't attend kindergarten last year as well as funding to support early years literacy.
"We have plans in place with our learning support teachers in grades one to 3 for students to have targeted literacy support. We are using techniques and strategies of teaching that we know are effective and we are putting more funds into that particular area for those grades," Norris said.
Through home visits and other means, outreach workers will directly contact families who may need support in ensuring a smooth return to in-person learning for their children. Workers will help expediate the registration process and collect information that will be of value to the school and help teachers make connections to students.
At the collegiate level, outreach staff will support students during the registration process with information and assistance in areas such as completion of a registration form prior to arrival at school and will work with the school to set up an appointment time with a school counsellor for registration and course selection.
Engaging students who had inconsistent attendance during the 2020-21 school year and supporting student mental health is a focus at all levels from kindergarten to Grade 12.
ReConnect workers are supporting families in the following elementary school communities: Howard Coad, Mayfair, Princess Alexandra, Pleasant Hill, Sutherland, wâhkôhtowin, and Westmount. The collegiates being supported by ReConnect workers are: Bedford Road, Centennial, Mount Royal, Nutana, Tommy Douglas, and Walter Murray.
The challenges faced during the past school year went beyond classroom learning. Many students, families, and staff report feeling disconnected with the community of school and with classmates and teachers. The effect of COVID-19 restrictions meant many people haven't had the opportunity to connect on a daily or regular basis.
Staff well-being is a key component to ensuring students and families have the opportunity to reconnect to the community and routine of in-person learning this fall.
"Our focus at Saskatoon Public Schools is to make sure our staff feel reconnected and positive, and we can connect with each other," Norris said. "We know that when we are in a good place mentally and physically, we do better for our students. Then we are going to go about reconnecting our students and our families, so they are also ready to reengage with school."
More information and contact details are available at saskatoonpublicschools.ca/reconnect