Sue MacDonald, the director of instruction - curriculum, was honoured for her decades of work at the Quesnel School District during the Sept. 16 school board meeting. (Submitted Photo)

90 per cent of Quesnel students return in wake of pandemic

Staff reported the numbers at the first school board meeting of the year

One of every 10 students at Quesnel schools is staying home due to COVID-19 fears.

The Quesnel School District released those numbers at its first board of education meeting of the school year, held Sept. 16.

A higher percentage of high school students (94 per cent) are attending in-person, compared to elementary and middle school students (86 per cent).

The board said it was happy with how students were brought back.

“[Orientation] was absolutely a success,” superintendent of schools Sue-Ellen Miller said. “The orientation for teachers for new health and safety guidelines for stage two, and same for students when they came on the the 10th and 11th. That orientation went very well.”

The school district has added an additional 100 hours of cleaning each week, and it is not renting out its buildings.

READ MORE: Quesnel School District releases return to school plans

“It is difficult to hire more staff at this time, and we will continue to advertise,” an update reads. “Maintenance staff are adjusting their work plans to address the changes required to classrooms and support implementation of all safety measures. We have not received all our plex-glass shields at this time.”

The school district has hired 16 new teachers this summer, and 17 student teachers from three different universities will be working in Quesnel.

Some changes are still on the horizon. With inconsistent ridership, the school district is struggling to put together seating plans for some bus routes. They are planning to add two additional bus routes and a Nazko-to-Quesnel express route.

The Province is planning to publicize potential COVID-19 school exposures.

READ MORE: B.C. to begin publicly listing COVID-19 school exposure events

The StrongStart program is also slowly ramping up. Teachers from the pre-kindergarten program are reaching out to parents to see how it can be safely integrated into the rest of school programming.

During the Sept. 16 meeting, the board received the results of an annual audit, getting a “clean audit opinion” from Corey Naphtali of KPMG.

“That’s really what you want to see from your auditors,” Naphtali said. “That means the financial statements are a fair representation of the activities and financial position for the year … that’s us telling you we’ve completed the audit and we’re satisfied with the results.”

Some slight changes in the amended 2020 budget were detected due to COVID-19, but Naphtali said it was a consistent year.

Tenders have closed for the construction of the new Quesnel Junior School. More than 10 companies applied, and the decision on which company will do the construction will be made in the next two weeks. The school board also heard an update on the demolition of the old school, which is on track in both its timing and its budget.

The school district ended the meeting by honouring long-time employee Sue MacDonald, the director of instruction – curriculum.

MacDonald has been working with the district since 1988, and many at the meeting spoke in glowing terms about her work.

“MacDonald has provided exceptional leadership and support for staff,” Miller said. “She is a valued colleague who will be missed.”

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