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Do you have a question you’d like to see put to the Langley school trustees? Email your idea to editor@langleyadvancetimes.com.

ADVANCE TIMES EXCLUSIVE

AT YOUR SERVICE: Trustees ponder what kids are missing out on during pandemic

Question-and-answer feature calls on those elected to office in Langley

Langley Advance Times is offering this weekly feature called it “At Your Service.”

It’s another forum in which to put questions to our local politicians about key issues facing our community and its residents.

Using a basic question-and-answer format, elected officials will be asked one question at a time and given the opportunity to respond (to a maximum of 250 words) on that said issue.

Alternating between elected groups, Langley City and Langley Township councils, Langley school board, Langley MLAs, and Langley MPs each have a chance to participate.

The answers provided will be published in their entirety online Sundays.

RECENT – AT YOUR SERVICE: Pools need to be part of Township-wide recreation planning

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QUESTION

Each school trustee was asked the same question: In your opinion what is a key program, activity, or service that Langley School District students have had to miss out on because of COVID and/or pandemic restrictions?

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ANSWERS

Board chair Rod Ross

A. Without a doubt, I would say the lack of sports programs has been a key program that students have had to go without.

Seeing the playing fields empty was a visual reminder that students are keeping their distance and not engaging in sports in general.

I applaud the students and teams that struggled with the complete lack of competitive sports.

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Trustee Shelley Coburn

A. If you asked 10 people this question you would get 10 different answers.

It isn’t just any one thing.

So much of a child’s life is tied to their schooling.

Many of their needs — social, emotional, material, physical are met for them during their K-12 education.

Every family, every child is unique.

What people feel they’re missing out on depends on their perspective.

For some maybe it’s extra circular activities that they love. Sports, groups, clubs, the best part of school — that one thing motivating them to get there.

For others it’s field trips, concerts, in-person presentations, sports day, back-to-school barbecues, or Breakfast With Santa.

For many kids and even their families it’s food, clothing, emotional support – it’s basic needs being met.

For Grade 12 students, it’s graduation ceremonies and celebrations. The culmination of 13 years of hard work looks much different for the classes of 2020 and 2021.

We’ve asked a lot of our kids and they’ve risen to the challenge beautifully — proving to be resilient and adaptive.

It helps that educators are creative and have done their best, making sure our kids are buffered as best as possible given the world around them.

If anyone’s going to make the best of a bad situation it’s kids and educators.

If you visit a school, you might see kids having fun, making new traditions, finding new ways to be engaged, to be involved, to be happy.

It just depends on your perspective.

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Trustee Charlie Fox

A.This question gave rise to me taking the opportunity to chat with students at various grade levels. In light of those conversations, I am going to break my response in to two parts.

Firstly, I believe for elementary school students one thing they missed a great deal was the field trips. Field trips are a huge part of broadening student learning, and their inability to enjoy the learning opportunities in new and enriching experiences was a big loss.

Whether the field trip be locally to study learning opportunities in our community or beyond to places like Science World, the Aquarium, or outdoor education opportunities, this was a big void in their early years educational experience.

Secondly, at the middle and secondary level, I believe the biggest thing the students missed out on was their extra-curricular activities.

Whether it was the wide variety of school sports or the clubs and group-based activities that enrich a student’s life in the upper grades these were missed greatly.

The opportunity for students to engage in school-based sports and clubs only helps to give them opportunities and allows them a broader based learning environment.

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Trustee Suzanne Perreault

A. Students, families, and staff alike have all been greatly impacted.

This has been a collective trauma experience for all.

However, if we are to zone in to where our students have been impacted, one can successfully say that it was socially/emotionally.

This pandemic has placed great pressures on our students like none other, provincially.

The need to create “separation” in learning from teachers – who are strong mentors for children/youth – impacted many.

The highlight points for students are often found in the opportunity for relationship building and the points of connection within that. In the end we can’t fabricate that loss of connection and relationship.

Those points of connection were taken away from them.

Experiences of basic social opportunities like having lunch with a peer or being able to receive lunch from the school. Loss such as being on a sports team, band concerts, participating in a play, field trips, etc.

These beyond the bell gaps of experiences are not what some students lost, but all.

For our graduating students, despite the great pivoting our schools have done, the students will grow into adults with the experience of loss of that pinacol point of their journey punctuating their success.

As a school district, however, we are a place where we can be coming together for community, for growth, and for learning as we navigate forward – it is what our educators do best.

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Trustee David Tod

A. Although there are many programs that have been adversely effected by the pandemic, I believe the loss of informal socialization and extra-curricular activities is one of the key components that was missed dearly.

In my discussions with parents and students, they both miss the clubs and activities. We know that social-emotional learning often takes place beyond the classroom.

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Trustee Tony Ward

A. Beyond ‘learning loss,’ the pandemic has had serious impacts on social/emotional learning and other non-academic elements for students.

Schools looked a bit like ghost towns; hallways were quiet.

Students were not supposed to connect with others not in their cohort and were expected to be picked up immediately after school.

Cohorts, online instruction, and reduced school hour activities limited interaction with peers and friends.

These changes, along with the suspension of extra-curricular ‘beyond the classroom’ activities, further compounded the social/emotional loss.

Activities impacted or suspended:

• Team sports – no games/spectators

• Inter-murals

• Clubs (various)

• Music/theatre/dance programs

These activities help to make school fun.

Students explore/engage their interests while interacting with peers in the development of interpersonal, team, and leadership skills, as well as critical thinking, physical literacy and other competencies.

• Special events

• Class parties

• Assemblies

• Play experiences – limited especially for students who were not able to come to school

• Concerts

• Guest speakers

• Field trips

• Hot lunch/fruit and veggie programs

• One-to-one reading for vulnerable readers

• Fundraising activities (for extra-curricular activities/technology/food) – lower socio-economic families had fewer opportunities to raise money for various activities due to events being cancelled. The less money raised amplified the inequity.

Thankfully, as we move forward gradually through the various phases of the pandemic, we are able to transition slowly and safely to permitting students an increasing range of activities and experiences.

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Trustee Marnie Wilson

A. There have been so many things that students have had to miss out on due to the pandemic: sports teams, extra-curriculars, musicals, clubs, social connections, and those are just a few.

However, I would have to say that, from my perspective, it has been grad and all that comes with the Grade 12 year that has been the hardest to miss out on for students.

The graduating classes of 2020 and 2021 went into lockdown halfway through 2020 and had almost none of the typical grad experiences: no grad cruise, no homecoming, no prom, no dry grad, in addition to all of the smaller social networking activities such as planning grad pranks, grad games, grad water fights, etc.

These activities are created to bring the grads together and come at a time in a student’s life when they are socially maturing and better able to expand their social circle.

High school staff often witness the merging of different students or groups of students in Grade 12, or overhear them saying, “we’ve been going to the same school for all this time, why didn’t we hang out?”

It makes me wonder if the graduates of 2020 and 2021 will even host 10 and 20 year grad reunions? It is difficult to predict what the social emotional impacts of COVID will be on our students and society, and we probably won’t know for several years or decades.

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UP NEXT

Next week’s Langley MLAS are being asked: If COVID-19 vaccinations are mandatory for health care workers, should flu shots also be made mandatory for those workers – to protect critically ill and elderly patients and care home residents in B.C.?

Watch for their answers online Sunday.

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