End of School Year Message from Board Chair Val Windsor

Category: District

At the June 6, 2023 Public Board Meeting, Board Chair Val Windsor delivered the following message: 

As you know, this is our final Public Board Meeting of the 2022/2023 school year, and as is customary, I would like to take a moment to reflect on the events of the past year.

A year ago, we had just started to see the lifting of pandemic health and safety measures. School operations finally returned to normal at the start of the new school year in September and as a result, the pace of life in schools went from 0-60 almost immediately!

For some students, this has been their first ‘normal’ year of schooling. For this year’s Grade 12s, they are thrilled to be able to enjoy the full range of Grad activities that so many other students lost out on in the previous three years.

Looking back, we can see that the pandemic has led to some interesting and even beneficial changes in schools’ day to day operations and activities that have continued today – from more time spent learning outdoors to revised scheduling that better supports secondary school students.

However, there’s no doubt that the pandemic has also had some extremely negative impacts. We know that students, families and staff are struggling with their mental health more than ever before. As a district, we are committed to de-stigmatizing mental health issues and ensuring that everyone has the supports they need to thrive.

In line with the district’s Vision for 2030, many schools in Delta are focusing on student mental health and trying to ensure that students feel a sense of connectedness and belonging, as this is key to their ability to learn, experience success and increase their resiliency moving forward.

It is wonderful to witness students living the district’s vision every day – they are tackling real world challenges and taking steps to make inclusion and equity the norm while developing leadership, teamwork and collaboration skills, as well as critical and creative thinkinng.

In Delta’s Secondary Schools, much of this important work is led by the Delta Youth Advisory Council members (DYAC). Each school has several students that participate in DYAC and they determine the issues they’d like to address at their school. Once a month, DYAC members from all seven schools meet – they rotate the meeting around the different high schools. The students from the host school set the agenda and usually share their ideas and best practices. DYAC is the main channel for students to communicate their thoughts and opinions to the Board of Education. I know I speak on behalf of all trustees when I say it has been a joy to attend the DYAC meetings to find out what is most important to students. This is student voice and choice in action, and I raise my hands to the eloquence and wisdom of students in Delta.

The Antiracism Committee has continued its great work this year and has been supporting schools and students with various initiatives, such as Black Excellence Day and Black History Month. In February, students at Sands Secondary held a two-day anti-racism symposium after school where more than 50 students from across the district learnt more about racism and how to be an active witness in support of people that are being discriminated against or bullied.

As I’m sure you know, June is National Indigenous History Month and June 21 is National Indigenous Peoples Day. Bringing Indigenous culture and history to all learners remains a key focus for the Indigenous Education team. In addition, the team aims to support the success of students with Indigenous ancestry. This year, the team held a number of youth leadership gatherings for Grade 10-12 students with Indigenous ancestry. In recent weeks, the district’s new Journey Canoe was ‘woken up’ and is being used to teach Indigenous Ways to classes across the district.

In March, Nathan Wilson, the district’s Indigenous Cultural Mentor, was awarded the Mayor’s Achievement Award in the category of Difference Maker. Every day, we see the difference Nathan makes in our schools, so we were thrilled to see him recognized in this way by the wider community.

It is inspiring to see students across the district tackle real world problems. For example, students at Seaquam Secondary have won several awards including the Young Reporter for the Environment Canada and the Young Conservationist Scholarship. And an international student at South Delta Secondary is working on an impressive science project to tackle climate change that will undoubtedly put Delta on the map if his project succeeds the way he anticipates! Also, students have been instrumental in the creation of rain gardens – at Delta Secondary and Heath Elementary – enabling rainwater to grow gardens that beautify the school, provide bird and pollinator habitat and replenish groundwater.

These projects have received vital support from the district’s Facilities and Maintenance team, which has also continued to create outdoor learning classrooms for students at schools across the district.

For students interesting in trying out different careers, the Career Programs team has been working with community partners to provide access to some amazing opportunities. The school district collaborated with Delta Fire & Emergency Services and the City of Delta to create a week-long junior firefighters camp just before Spring Break. The camp was a resounding success and the district is now working with the Delta Police Department to offer a Police Camp during the summer break.

Some other good news – in April, the BC Government announced the Feeding Futures funding, which will help ensure that more children and youth have access to healthy meals and snacks at school. Giving students stigma-free access to nutritious food is so important as it allows them to focus fully on their learning. The new funds will be used to build and expand local school food security programs, including purchasing food and hiring dedicated staff to co-ordinate meals and snacks for students. This new funding will build on the progress of this year’s one-time Student and Family Affordability Fund and is wonderful news for families.

After Spring Break, the district launched its seamless childcare pilot program at Sunshine Hills Elementary. It originally offered 12 spots for before- and after- school care to Kindergarten-aged children and their siblings. Recognizing the project’s potential to provide more high quality, low cost child care options in our community, the district has expanded this pilot to include another 12 spots in September. The project is funded through provincial government grants and utilizes existing facilities and Early Childhood Educators.

Funding has also enabled us to open three playgrounds this year. A new accessible playground at Jarvis Elementary funded by the province’s Program Enhancement Program opened in January. And last month, thanks to the fundraising efforts of the Parent Advisory Councils and matching community grants from the City of Delta, new playgrounds were opened at Port Guichon and Ladner Elementary Schools. I cannot stress how important playgrounds are to students. They are safe spaces where kids develop crucial physical, social, emotional and imaginative skills necessary to gain self-confidence, improve coordination, and advance critical thinking capabilities. So whenever we have a new playground at a school, it’s something to be celebrated!

It’s been wonderful to see students participate in extra-curricular activities and events and having fun together again. I hope you’ve had a chance to see students in action, whether it’s been on the sports field or stage. I know trustees have been out and about in recent months and have thoroughly enjoyed witnessing the many talents of Delta students.

To staff, I would like to say thank you. Although a return to normal school operations was very welcome after three years in a pandemic, I also know just how busy and stressful this school year has been. Whatever your role within the district, thank you for your tireless dedication and support.

To our 2023 graduates, we are extremely proud of you and hope you are proud of yourselves. Wherever you are headed next, have faith in how far you can go and please accept our very best wishes for a happy, exciting and fulfilling future! Congratulations, graduates of 2023!

In closing, I would like to thank all students, parents, guardians, staff and community partners for their hard work and commitment as we bid farewell to this school year. Let’s hope the 2023/2024 school year will be an equally great year for all!

Wishing everyone a restful and enjoyable summer.