Meeting Notes - November 1, 2016

During the Operations & Finance Committee meeting tonight we discussed the recent memorandum from the Ministry of Education which indicates our board can receive $856,000 for retrofitting and creating accessibility for community partners in our schools.

The money is to be used to retrofit empty student spaces to support partnerships with community agencies. I think this money is a “gift” that could not have come at a better time. I have been advocating for administration to try to fill empty student spaces by finding partnerships with community agencies. The main hurdle was that the space may not be suitable, with the suggestion that community partnerships are a great idea, but more suitable for new builds. I think community partnerships are a great opportunity to bring needed community services to neighbourhoods. Unfortunately, administration reported that although attempts have been made, they have not been able to find an agency willing to partner yet. One reason is that agencies have leases that they do not want to break. I have been doing what I can, but if you know of an agency that is looking for space, please contact me or the board office. We need to use this money by the end of the 2017/18 school year or we lose it and it is one way we can reduce the possibility of closing schools.

The Education Committee had an excellent presentation and demonstration of our robotics and coding programs offered throughout the school board from Teacher Consultant, Mrs. Fouada Hamzeh. Robotics is seen to support all subjects because it helps students with skills such as problem-solving and perseverance. In fact, Mrs. Hamzeh pointed out that, “Students will not stop until the robot works”. Robotics and coding have cross-curricular components including language and math as well as a socio-emotional component as students often work together in groups. Students have a variety of coding apps available including “Scratch Junior” on board iPads. In 2015 we received funding to pilot a Robotics Project which afforded the opportunity to buy various LEGO robotics kits as well as to provide Professional Development to be able to use the kits to their utmost. Robotics are very popular at the elementary and high school levels. Although we do not have robotics and coding in all of our classes, these are certainly areas I would like to see the board pursue.

I am looking forward to the November 15 board meeting when administration will be bringing forward their Long Term Accommodation (empty student space) Plan which is intended to address my motion in May, which received unanimous support from trustees. The report is expected to consider planning from a board-wide perspective as well as not simply a dollars and cents lens, but a community lens. As always, the public are invited to attend this meeting at 7pm at the board office.


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Jessica Sartori