ETSB starts the year on a positive note

By Matthew McCully

The first day of school this year will certainly be one for the books.
According to Eastern Townships School Board (ETSB) Chairman Michael Murray, staff and students took it all in stride and started the year off on a high note.
“The amazing thing about it was how normal a day it was,” Murray said.
With all the regular first day of school concerns to address, the additional COVID-19 measures in place seemed not to have made a difference.
Murray said last week the ETSB leadership team toured all the schools during the three pedagogical days before the return of students.
“The overall impression was very positive,” commented Murray, adding that following preparations made throughout the summer, staff were confident and upbeat about the start of the year.
“It seemed to go very well,” he said, according to reports from the Director and Assistant Director General.
“There was a teacher in front of every group,” Murray said.
While the board did need to dip into the supply list for a few groups, Murray said as of day one, there were no full-time teaching positions unfilled.
There is always some behind the scenes stuff and reorganizing of schedules teachers and support staff, he said.
“Like every other first day, there was one more kid than planned for in one group, two fewer than expected in another. Things have to be shuffled around; we will have to accommodate those changes. That’s management all through the year,” Murray said.
The transportation plan worked well, the chairman added.
“We have been able to accommodate everyone who wanted and was entitled to transportation,” Murray said, admitting that a number of parents chose to drive their children to school which was a lifesaver.
In almost every case the board will also be able to accommodate a second address for students in a joint custody situation.
As far as sanitizing and sitting in the right seats, Murray said there were no issues.
While things went off without a hitch yesterday, Murray pointed out not everyone was invited.
Several schools are on progressive re-entry,” he explained.
By Wednesday, Murray said the board will have a better idea about attendance levels to offer a head count.
Murray said the board has confirmed around 60 students for virtual school.
The online learning option was made available to Secondary 4 and 5 students as well as students with a medical exemption, although Murray said boards have been lobbying for some time to make the option available to all parents.
While the virtual learning cohort got started yesterday, Murray it was mostly contacting the students and making sure all the tools were in place and students know their schedules. Real instruction will likely start next Tuesday, he said.
Murray pointed out that a renovation miracle did end up happening at Ayer’s Cliff Elementary School. “They opened today with pretty much everything done,” he said, minus a few minor details. Last week the school was in disarray because of delays getting materials for the renovation project.
Murray boasted about another renovation done over the summer. Since water fountains are currently off limits, Murray said all ETSB schools have been equipped with dispensers to refill water bottles.
“The staff really deserves huge kudos, having dong through all the preparations,” Murray said. During the summer there was a lot of uncertainty, changes and contradictions coming from the education ministry.
“They absorbed it all and have done all the things necessary to get the next school year started,” commented Murray.
“We’re back!” the chairman said.

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