June 29, 2021 Update

Good afternoon Connect parents;

As we reach the end of a very tumultuous 2020-21 school year, I would like to thank all of you for your continuing confidence in, and support of, Connect Charter School. Throughout the pandemic we have consistently reinforced our commitment to maintaining student and staff safety and wellness.  COVID-19 didn’t come with a manual, and so every decision needed to be discussed, thought out, and based on the best available scientific data. As we reflect on those decisions we are confident that they were the right ones to keep a school community of 700 people as safe as possible under some very uncertain circumstances. Our students have been nothing short of amazing in their efforts to comply with all the measures and adjustments that have been made throughout the year. They have demonstrated resilience and understanding during some very trying and frustrating times. It is also a time when we must bid farewell to our grade 9’s. Although it has been a year of many missed experiences, this amazing group of young adults had their heads high and demonstrated the resilience, dignity, and sense of community that helped our school weather the pandemic. We wish these extraordinary citizens all the best  high school and beyond.

Now that we appear to be turning the corner on COVID-19, we are looking forward to the 2021-22 school year with renewed optimism that we will once again be able to engage student in all of the activities that are hallmarks of our program: outdoor education, electives, intramurals, league sports, Peace Festival, and so much more. Alberta Education has indicated that a final decision on school re-entry for next year will be revealed before July 31st, and shortly thereafter you will receive an initial email from the school to let you know if there are any changes to our school opening. As it stands now, teachers will be returning to school on August 18th for 3 days of planning and professional learning. Students will begin a staggered re-entry with grades 7, 8, and 9 only attending on Monday August 23rd and grades 4, 5, and 6 only on August 24th. All students will begin attending on August 25th. School buses will run on the normal schedule for both staggered entry days.

We will begin day camps at the Field Experience Centre on September 7th with each grade having two days on site in the fall, one day in the winter, and a 3-day, 2 night overnight trip in the spring.  There will also be opportunities for grades and pods to access the camp on additional days throughout the year. More information on camps, future work bee opportunities, and an open house at camp will be included in the mid-August update.

Volunteer recognition

In a school year where many of our usual volunteer dependent activities were curtailed due to the pandemic, our parents still stepped forward in so many ways to volunteer time, energy, enthusiasm, and expertise. We would normally have our volunteer tea in mid-June to acknowledge these efforts, and hopefully we will restart that tradition next year. For now I would, on behalf of all our staff and students, like to extend our immeasurable and sincere gratitude to those who volunteered in the following capacities at Connect this year. For the purpose of this acknowledgement I have chosen not to list volunteer names as I am almost certain I will unintentionally miss someone. To all of you who took on lead roles with the School Council, Parent Society, Fun Lunch, Transportation…thank you for your support. Here is a summary of some of the volunteer activities that took place this year:

School Council

Our School Council executive worked tirelessly to keep parents connected to the school and find ways to be engaged in supporting school programs under some very challenging circumstances. Fundraising remained a priority for Council as alternative fundraising events were explored in the absence of our fun lunch program.

Parent Society

The Connect Charter School Parent Society continued to work diligently at managing the funds derived from our last casino in 2019. We are now looking forward to a new casino date that will support initiatives specific to the Connect Field Experience Centre at Camp Adventure and  programs associated with in-school enrichment as well.

Camp Riveredge 

Despite some uncertainty around health regulations we were able to organize field experiences for all classes at Camp Riveredge in the fall and again in June. Maintaining supervision ratios and providing support to students during those trips required significant parental involvement. During a time when nothing seemed normal, the day camps provided students with a close proximity of what ‘normal’ camp activities would look like.

Transportation

Connect’s transportation system is a complex endeavour, coordinated and planned by Margaret Mills, whom we are extremely indebted to for many years of service to the transportation committee. In addition there are parents volunteering as route liaison coordinators to bring forward transportation concerns and collaboratively work as a team to develop solutions. Without the work of this dedicated crew, transportation could go off the rails very quickly.

Connect Field Experience Centre at Camp Adventure Work Bee

The first work bee at our new field experience centre took place on Saturday. An estimated 40 parents, children, and staff arrived at the site and put in a solid day’s work in very hot conditions. It has felt like a very long time since we were able to have such a gathering, and we are looking forward to many more as the camp takes shape. Saturday was transformational as buildings were cleaned and sanitized, dangerous trees were felled, acres of meadow was mowed, flooring and roof repairs were begun, and new signs were posted.

Enrichment fees 

There have been a few inquiries regarding the use of enrichment fees this year and whether a refund might be forthcoming.  Enrichment fees cover a portion of expenses related to technology, field experiences / outdoor education, student school supplies, art, music, and special events, elective courses, and clubs. Although we did not have multi-day off-site trips this year, the nature of Camp Riveredge required that our phys ed team be present at camp and therefore substitute teachers were needed for those positions for an extended period of time. When the final tally of expenses came in for the year there was a surplus of only $2400 in enrichment, or $3.84/student. In light of this small balance, no refunds will be issued.

And so, my friends, please have a safe and fun filled summer. I am looking forward to the opportunity to see all of you in August.

Phil Butterfield

Principal