Each week, we are asking Langley’s elected officials to weigh in on an issue of concern to local residents. They are given a deadline and invited to respond with a maximum 250 words on the matter. This time, each member of Langley Township council was invited to respond to this question.

AT YOUR SERVICE: Langley trustees applaud positives found amid pandemic

Q&A: Members of the local school board given chance to address the community on a key local issue

  • Jun. 13, 2021 12:00 a.m.

The Langley Advance Times is pleased to introduce this new weekly feature, call it “At Your Service.”

It’s another forum in which to put questions to our local politicians about key issues facing our community and its residents.

Instead of waiting for an election to arrive, we’re introducing this new weekly feature that will run ongoing, explained editor Roxanne Hooper.

Using a basic question-and-answer format, elected officials will be asked one question at a time and given the opportunity to respond (to a maximum of 250 words) on said issue.

Alternating between elected groups each week, we began with Langley City council, and are rotating through Langley Township council, now Langley school board, then Langley MLAs, and MPs – before starting at the top of the list again.

RECENT – AT YOUR SERVICE: City council weighs in on supervised consumption sites

The answers provided will be published in their entirety online each Sunday.

In addition to questions presented by Advance Times staff, we are also open to suggested questions from the public on topics that are of concern to them, Hooper said.

Elected officials have been advised that we reserve the right to edit their submissions for brevity, legality, and clarity. If a politician’s answer is not included, it could be by error, but is more likely a failure on their part to meet the deadline.

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QUESTION

Each trustee on the Langley school board was asked the same question: What tools and techniques that were developed during the COVID-19 pandemic should become a permanent part of the Langley educational system?

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ANSWERS

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Chair Rod Ross

A. • Semester system applied to all secondary schools.

It has been a challenge to get everyone on the same page. For years we have had “linear schools” (e.g. WGSS) and “semester schools” within the district.

With COVID, all our schools are now semestered. This allows more flexibility for student success.

• Use of MS Teams throughout the district.

By having one online tool (instead of Zoom and other webinar tools) students, parents, and faculty become comfortable with and have to learn only Teams.

• Use of outdoor learning opportunities.

Our teaching and learning space has been challenged beyond the four walls of a classroom. Teachers and students have embraced the great outdoors as a learning space.

• Use of transition learning support model.

With more than 600 students (and parents) embracing this fully online model… with great responses from all stakeholders, it showed how quick our teachers and staff we able to create a world-class learning community almost overnight.

• Recognition that students do not want/value snow days anymore.

We are relational beings and sitting alone at home in a never-ending “snow day” gets tiring pretty fast.

Students want to learn, in-class with peers and teachers.

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Trustee Shelley Coburn

A. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted us all, and for a time the world came to a standstill – except in particular sectors, for example, public education.

Although we experienced the never-ending spring break, very quickly we could see the needs of children and families were not being met. Beyond this, home schooling isn’t for everyone.

Essential workers needed to go to work and they couldn’t. It became clear the province couldn’t continue to function without some schools open.

Very quickly the people in this district had learning hubs established.

They didn’t stop here.

Soon teachers were online, up and ready to go.

Kids kept learning, but more importantly kept connected. They managed to pull off grad for the class of 2020.

In a few short months the pandemic confirmed what everyone in public education knows – there is no replacement for face-to-face learning.

By September, every single one of our facilities were open and fully operational.

For our families who couldn’t return, the district designed an entire virtual school with more than 700 students enrolled.

Am I impressed? Absolutely but it’s what I’ve come to expect.

Did we do it perfectly? No, and I know there are places we can do better. But, without having the right people, infrastructure, and tools already in place, there is no way this district and the people in it could have pulled off what they did in the last 16 months.

This pandemic gave us the ultimate test and the people in this district delivered.

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Trustee Charlie Fox

A. The COVID pandemic has allowed for a variety of tools and opportunities that positively affect learning in Langley schools.

These include:

1. The use of Teams as an online communication platform for meetings, in-service, and classroom communication.

• It has allowed teachers to be connected to students in extended absences. It is a great tool for executive function skills for students (online agenda versus a hand-held one).

• Teachers now have a collaborative sites where they can network, share ideas and resources, and ask questions of their colleagues and people from all over the world.

• At secondary it has allowed parents to be more involved in student progress and knowing more about assignments and daily work.

• Allowed for more flexibility for parents to attend meetings and conferences.

• Teacher growth in technologic use to do virtual presentations in the class resulting in a reduction of paper use and more hands on learning. Teams provides a digital platform to showcase student work.

• Teachers being flexible to explore new learning opportunities emphasizing collaboration and platooning with their cohort teachers to make the best possible experiences for their group of students.

2. Online schooling, and transition learning, allows students alternate learning methodologies and opportunities to better suit their learning style.

3. The increase of daytime custodians, especially for elementary schools, has set new standards for a healthy clean learning environment.

4. The district installed outdoor classrooms at each school site, and the introduction of Learning Wagons to promote outdoor learning.

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Trustee Suzanne Perreault

A. Experiences I would hope to see SD35 continue growing in, that we have been called to during COVID, is in the area Social Emotional Learning (SEL) – creating more tools for our tool box.

It has been a highlight for many and we need to maintain the trajectory of meaningful inclusion coupled with the increasing use of Universal Design and Learning (UDL) approaches to support the same.

During COVID, we instituted the Transitional Support Model (TSM), which has further expanded the SD35’s ability to support students with various needs through remote learning.

Teams has become one of our key tools to do this, showing we can offer opportunities for learning in various ways.

Students gaining access to a common timetable providing options for every student to access equity in education.

By introducing “cross enrolling” we are giving students access to classes they couldn’t typically gain, via Teams, thereby supporting our marginalized communities.

This is the beginning of more experiences to come, especially for our children with barriers.

It is our system that needs to change verses changing the kids, equity, and inclusion matter.

These pieces can’t succeed without our partner groups. During COVID our work with our partners has strengthened, and I would like to see us continue enhancing this to ensure student needs are being reached.

Practising patience and kindness during change is all of our greatest growing edge.

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Trustee David Tod

A. Plato, in his dialogue “The Republic,” stated: “Necessity is the mother of invention.”

This past year was one of innovation and invention.

As a district, the pandemic caused us to come up with creative efforts to continue meeting the needs of our students.

Put simply, I was astounded by the amount of planning and replanning in order to keep students and staff safe, follow public health orders, and keep schools open for students learning.

The pandemic forced a change in pedagogy as staff woke up in a digital world.

As a district, we stayed the course and stuck with Teams as our virtual meeting platform.

According to district reports, online collaboration has increased exponentially and Teams will stick around as we transition to our new normal.

We changed to a quarterly system at our high schools during the pandemic, and in September 2021 most of our high schools will use a semester system(some for the first time).

Our high schools will be more unified than ever with district-wide start times and semester systems. Students at all these schools will now be eligible for district programs as they can fit within their timetable.

At the elementary and middle school level, we discovered new ways to reach students online (blended format) with our Transition Support Model. Lessons learned were shared with U-connect and summer school.

These are just a few examples of the transformative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic upon the Langley School District.

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Trustee Tony Ward

A. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has, out of necessity, challenged us to become innovative and resourceful in all areas in order to maintain safety, it has also caused us to rethink best practices.

Here are some ideas that I believe we should continue to build on:

• Staggering start and end times has allowed for a practical approach to managing and reducing the number of vehicles at peak flow times.

Not only does this allow for reduced vehicle congestion and time savings for parents/guardians, it also stands to reason that pedestrian safety is improved.

• The use of outdoor learning spaces (and outdoor learning generally) has also risen during the last year, even though the district was already moving in that direction.

Not without its challenges (i.e. weather conditions, finding suitable locations, outdoor furniture costs, etc.), outdoor learning has been shown to improve physical health, social development, and cognitive functioning.

• ‘Virtual meetings’ via software like Microsoft ‘Teams’ and Zoom, has become increasingly ubiquitous, allowing us to be “together, yet apart” during the pandemic.

The familiarity of these platforms is at an all-time high; it makes sense to consider in what contexts can they be of most benefit to best serve parents, students, and staff.

Technology has facilitated distance learning and hybrid schooling. Virtual classrooms re-ensure sick students that they are still part of the classroom community.

• Lastly, hand washing stations are a good idea to reduce colds and flu transmission, helping keep kids in school.

Let’s keep doing what is working well!

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Trustee Marnie Wilson

A. The pandemic has caused so much hardship for so many, it seems hard to believe we would keep any reminders of it once it is over; however some things born of necessity due to the pandemic have been beneficial to the education system.

The reinstating of day-time custodians in elementary schools has been a critical piece of prioritizing the health and safety of our schools by keeping them clean and disinfected throughout the pandemic.

Although the funding for extra custodial time came from the federal and provincial government special purpose funds, I will advocate to ensure that we do not lose this very necessary resource.

The increased use of technology, such as “Teams,” to share resources and improve communication has been very useful and I would like to see it remain as a valuable educational tool.

Increased awareness and support for mental health has been instrumental in keeping schools open through the pandemic.

Students, staff, and families have all worked together to take care of one another, in a way that we have never experienced.

The pandemic put a spotlight on inequities that our schools and communities face whether it be socio economic barriers related to food insecurity, access to technology, or extra supports for diverse learners. And, although finding solutions to completely eradicate these issues remains a challenge, I believe the pandemic has exposed opportunities for us to reflect on how we can do things differently moving forward.

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UP NEXT

Next week’s Langley MLAs are being asked: Does the lack of a federal commitment to the Langley SkyTrain extension endanger the project? And if so, what must you and the province do to move it along?

Watch for their answers online Sunday.

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Langley Advance Times