ADSB Began the September 2021 Re-Opening Journey in July

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Since the end of June, Algoma District School Board (ADSB) has focused on supporting and  engaging our staff, students and families in order that they feel prepared for and excited about the 21/22 school year. Recognizing that our students and staff have weathered through two unparalleled school years, we placed a deliberate emphasis on ensuring our students and staff felt safe and supported as they prepared for and began the school year.

As in previous years, ADSB provided program choices to support learning over the summer  months. Virtual summer learning options included experiential learning through Co-op, day-time summer school, university reach ahead, robotics and our annual Summer Learning Program.

Over the month of July, secondary students earned 158 credits, while our Summer Learning  Program, designed to minimize summer learning loss and to support elementary students with  literacy, numeracy and English Second Language needs, welcomed 127 students to its virtual learning platform.

ADSB once again provided a Summer Wellness Line for students and families in need of
additional support in the areas of mental health and well-being over the summer months.

Students and/or family members wishing to speak with a school-based mental health professional or to access services were able to book an appointment for a virtual or in-person counselling session. Staff provided strategies for students coping with Covid related stress or anxiety and offered transitional supports for the return to school in September.

ADSB Summer Wellness Line staff and counselors also completed over 500 re-engagement calls, connecting with students who had become disengaged in the final months of the 20/21 school year. Staff were able to address individual student needs for return to school and to provide  transitional supports including, in some cases, school tours prior to school opening.

Algoma District School Board Indigenous students transitioning from grade 8 to grade 9 in  September had an opportunity to explore and strengthen their Anishinaabe identity through cultural place-based education. In July, ADSB provided a three-week, on-the-land, Anishinaabe Summer Camp opportunity for Grade 8 Indigenous youth. Niibing – Enakamigisyang (Things We Do In Summer) was developed and facilitated by Great Lakes Cultural Camps. One camp was run in-person in Garden River with students learning on the land and on the water, working with elders and community members. A second camp was offered as a blended learning virtual camp for grade 8 students residing outside of the Sault Ste Marie area. They participated in online
learning in the morning and in an experiential work project later in the day with community  partners. In total, 25 high school credits were earned: 15 in-person and 10 through blended  learning.

ADSB recognized that, as the first day of school approached, students would have many different  feelings about the return to class and so we decided to kick off the school year with an event  called IGNITE 2021! We wanted to spark student interest in the new school year by engaging  them in an exciting virtual event and in-person activities for grades 6 to 10 students in August.

This board wide event was designed to get students thinking about their return to school, encouraging them to ‘show up’ and reconnect to their caring school communities.

VIP guests Jessi Cruickshank, Andre De Grasse, Dr. Hayley Wickenheiser and Tyler Shaw  reiterated our messages about “showing up, taking a shot, believing in yourselves and taking the  first step,” personalizing their messages for our Algoma District School Board students. Reaction  to the event from participants, staff and families was extremely positive. We had 400 participants from all of our elementary and secondary schools, hosted at our secondary sites, with 74 staff volunteers and 40 peer leaders helping to make the event a huge success. Donna Hilsinger  attended the Tuesday September 21st Board Meeting virtually and was thanked for being
instrumental in securing our special guests and being a key supporter of IGNITE 2021!

To prepare ADSB staff for the new school year, three Professional Development (PD) days were scheduled at the beginning of September, prior to students returning to class. In addition to Covid training and health and safety sessions, staff took part in a session for staff on the Foundational First Days with an emphasis on creating caring, connected classroom communities and determining students’ starting points for learning. Another session focused on Support for a Mentally Healthy Back to School with a focus on school mental health foundations, role of  schools and staff, building student mental health knowledge and reviewing student wellness/mental health services.

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