It has been a challenging year at Knowlton Academy and principal, Renalee Gore, maintains that having had an amazing team already in place has made all the difference. “Everyone is fragile right now. It is people’s mental health that is most important,” says Renalee.
She, as well as the Quebec Ministry of Education, have made efforts to keep stress at a minimum for staff and students; end of cycle exams have been cancelled and one of three report cards was eliminated. As well, the Ministry gave extra money which was put towards more human resources. “We are trying to meet the various needs of our students. More than ever this year the position of the re-adaptation officer has been crucial in supporting our students,” explains Renalee.
Due to the pandemic many of the popular programs, that the students look forward to, had to be cancelled: like the impressive 51-year-old ski program that gets every student equipped to ski the slopes five days each winter, the robotics club, intra-murals athletics and sports tournaments. Renalee says they had to find creative ways to keep the fun alive in the school. Snowshoes were purchased, with funds from the town, so the students could explore the trails behind the school and sleds were bought so that the students could enjoy some sledding on the slope behind the school. Students were treated to professional theatre productions which they watched online. Fortunately, the breakfast program, which feeds between 40 and 75 students a day, was able to continue despite losing some of their longstanding volunteers due to the associated health risks. The town also funded the school’s misting machine which is used to disinfect the classrooms more efficiently. Renalee says this was a huge help and time saver.
Fortunately, the school’s much loved Garden Project is back this year after it was nixed last year. Renalee says, “Everyone has a role in the garden.” The students do the planting, harvesting, cooking and donate some of the food to the local food bank.
With new residents flocking to the area, enrollment has increased to 267 students from last year’s 232. Only some of the increase is explained by the newly introduced K4 program. “We have new families that have moved here from Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa and the South Shore,” says Renalee. Also, a new teacher from the Yukon, Matthew Quesnelle, has joined the team and he says, “the staff is extremely supportive.”
“Finding replacement teachers has been very difficult this year because retired teachers were understandably less willing to come back to work,” says Renalee. There has been no COVID outbreak at the school. Only one student is known to have had a case of COVID- 19. Renalee says that the teachers are feeling much relief by the recent news that, as essential workers, they can now book their vaccinations.
Last year the grade 6 graduation and the Kindergarten celebration of learning were both drive-through events. As for the annual year end awards ceremony that takes place on the front grounds, “plans are still up in the air, we will have to wait and see. Whatever we do, it will be joyous, celebrating a particularly challenging year, which we have got through together,” says Renalee.