FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – School District 60 Superintendent Stephen Petrucci says the school’s mood and environment have been very positive despite a “rollercoaster” year.

“We were really looking forward to a more stable year in terms of what those parameters and guidelines would be. In many respects, we have been able to come back to a lot of programming and opportunities that we did have to forgo last year,” said Petrucci.

The beginning of the 2021-2022 school year saw the removal of cohorts that were implemented last year to limit COVID-19 transmission. Students were allowed to socialize as per usual while being asked to respect everyon’es personal space with the removal of a 2-metre distance requirement.

Extracurricular activities also resumed for elementary and secondary students.

Change fatigue is expected during any given school year depending on the number of programs and initiatives implemented, but that was amplified with health orders, said Petrucci.

“I think people just get worn down, in terms of the changes we talk about at work, but also just in our community, and to a certain degree, in the media as well.”

Petrucci says the positive atmosphere is mainly from school staff doing their best to get through the pandemic and provide a proper environment for students.

“In terms of the perspective from the students, they are experiencing, happy, joyful, and, a positive learning environment, and that’s again, thanks to our staff.”

The consistency in the K to 12 guidelines has allowed the District to maintain stability, said Petrucci, noting a difference between the public health orders and the school guidelines.

He says it gets complicated when the health orders change and the schools are looking to host a Christmas concert or sporting tournament.

Another challenge schools have faced is the shortage of replacement teachers and support staff.

“We have faced shortages in the past, even pre COVID, but it’s been exacerbated.”

Petrucci says finding replacements has been an ongoing challenge, and schools have had principals and vice-principals are stepping into the classroom more frequently.

” It’s not a funding issue. It’s just the length of our replacement teacher, our support teacher list, our educational assistant list. For example, we would like them to be a lot longer.”

SD 60 also announced last week that it would not require proof of vaccination for staff at this time.

Attendance has also fluctuated over the past year and a half, but Petrucci says that has stabilized.

” I think the high school was really relieved this year to go back to a regular scheduling system, for example, and not have the cohort and the quarter system like we did last year.”

Petrucci says he’s proud that the District has maintained in-person instruction.

“Not only is that important for our students, but it’s also important for our community in terms of knowing that there that certainty.  Parents can still be at work. The community can continue the way it needs to. So I’m actually really proud of that,” said Petrucci.

As for graduation ceremonies, Petrucci says it’s hard to predict what will happen, especially with the rise in COVID-19 cases due to the Omicron variant.

“I think the default right now is to continue to plan for an alternate type of ceremony and festivities. There was some great feedback last year in terms of how the high school really made it a special occasion for the students and the families and how they’re able to come in small groups, still cross the stage, and receive their diplomas.”

Overall, Petrucci says SD 60’s education programming delivery has gone on seamlessly.