In the KPDSB, we recognize that a child’s first years of school provide a foundation for their educational career. Our two-year Kindergarten programs provide rich learning environments to prepare children for success through Grade 12 and beyond.
We are proud to offer 28 Kindergarten programs within our 16 elementary schools, and 3 in our Virtual School, providing rich learning experiences designed to support the individual learners’ growth in each class. Our programs serve 560 four- and five-year-old children throughout the region. Our educators foster children’s natural curiosity, often allowing students to direct the learning in their areas of interest using authentic and hands-on learning opportunities, all while supporting the development of a strong foundation in literacy and numeracy.
Our educators recognize the many benefits of learning outdoors. In addition to spending time in fresh air and sunlight, outdoor learning also allows children to explore the natural world, providing unforgettable experiences and promoting the development of a rich vocabulary.
Valleyview Public School in Kenora and New Prospect Public School in Dryden offer French Immersion Kindergarten programs. In the first year of the program, children enrolled in one of these programs are immersed in the French language for 100% of their classroom day. This rich language environment provides children with a solid foundation in French while also providing them with experiences and strategies to promote their English skills’ growth.
This year, Kindergarten educators have led their professional learning, grounded in research and based on students’ strengths and needs. This has allowed us to be responsive to the unique and frequently changing circumstances of 2020 and provided students with learning experiences that best meet their learning needs in both in-person and online learning environments. The year 2020 has presented us with unforeseen challenges, which have fueled new and creative collaborations between school and home. Students in our Virtual School have benefited immensely from the collaboration between families and educators. We are grateful for the family support and for welcoming the classroom into their homes.
The pandemic has brought many challenges to students and families around the world. We noticed early on that many of the programs that supported our learners needed to adapt to continue to meet new challenges.
KPDSB has many dedicated community partners who immediately supported our efforts to find ways to ensure students continued to receive wraparound support. We collaborated to ensure that students learning virtually received food and nutrition support that they would normally receive at the school. We supported connections between students and mental health providers through different platforms.
We recognize that not everyone could engage in virtual learning and worked to provide hotspot phones to families and create opportunities for learning offline for students in remote communities. We worked with partners to engage families and students in culturally relevant learning opportunities while students were home in their communities.
We continue to work with our partners and listen to parents and students, knowing that as we continue to work and learn in a pandemic, we will have to continue to adapt and respond to our students’ ever-changing needs.
The KPDSB’s Equity Action Plan
Why an Equity Action Plan?
In 2013, the Ontario Ministry of Education issued Program Policy Memorandum 119 entitled Developing and Implementing Equity and Inclusive Education Policies in Ontario Schools. Ontario’s subsequent Education Action Plan (2017) further outlined boards’ responsibilities to ensure equity of access and opportunity for all learners. The KPDSB Equity Action Plan was created and approved by trustees in September 2019.
How was this plan developed?
An environmental scan of other public school board Equity Action Plans and websites provided models for aligning priorities and documenting our work. Extensive consultation was done to develop the plan with community agencies, the Indigenous Education Advisory Committee, KPDSB mental health leaders and senior administration. Opportunities to gather student opinions throughout the implementation of this plan is a priority.
Who does an Equity Action Plan support?
Our school communities are characterized by rich diversity. Our students are children, adolescents, young adults and adults. With such diversity comes various strengths, needs, interests, goals, identities and cultural backgrounds. Students are cared for by different people, who all show their love and support in the way that best meets their child’s background and beliefs.
What and who does the plan include?
In the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board, we strive to ensure that all students and staff have inclusive learning and working environments. This Equity Action Plan outlines who we are as a board and our commitment to reconciliation, illustrates the equity work already underway and describes the work we still need to commit to doing under the following eight equity focus areas:
Eight Equity Focus Areas:
- Board Policies, Procedures, Guidelines and Practices
- Shared and Committed Leadership
- School-Community Relationship
- Inclusive Curriculum and Assessment Practices
- Religious Accommodations
- School Climate and Prevention of Discrimination and Harassment
- Professional Learning
- Accountability and Transparency
- How will we track our progress?
Ongoing monitoring and reporting our collective actions towards our identified equity targets are essential to achieving our system goals. Therefore, the KPDSB senior administration team will work with schools and the board to integrate and track how the equity strategies are embedded into school and board improvement plans and KPDSB committees. Regular progress updates are presented to stakeholders.
Equity in Recruitment and Promotion Strategies
We continue to work towards ensuring that our recruitment and promotion strategies support a diverse staff in a fair and equitable workplace. The Board’s hiring and promotion policy has been updated to reflect these efforts, and our internal procedures and practices are being reviewed through this lens. Bias and cross-cultural awareness training for all staff are being planned for rollout within this school year.
A dedicated pathways program was a new KPDSB initiative in 2019–2020. A central coordinator worked with pathways teachers for the senior elementary grades to implement the Education and Career/Life Planning Program beginning with developing an Individual Pathways Plan (IPP). The goal was for all students in Grade 7 and 8 to access the web-based tool, myBlueprint, to discover more about themselves, including their learning styles, interests and personal strengths. Families and caregivers were recognized as influential in how students view themselves and their future opportunities and were encouraged to engage in this student-led process.
Creating Pathways to Success is founded on a vision that views students as the architects of their own lives. The IPP will be an important tool as students move through high school to their initial post-secondary destination, whether it be apprenticeship training, college, community living, university or the workplace. Students also learned about the guidance counsellor’s important role during their high school years to support future planning and to ensure students can access the support they need for all aspects of their high school experience. The importance of the continuum of pathways for teachers and guidance counsellors was apparent in the spring of 2020 when the in-person transition activities involving high school visits were cancelled due to COVID-19. The pathways school teams provided students and families with the tools they needed to access the information to complete course selections using myBlueprint and the support to navigate transition planning.
Before COVID-19, the pathways program focused on learning in and outside of the classroom to help students develop the knowledge and skills they need to make informed decisions about the future for many aspects of their lives. Students learned from community partners about a wide range of career opportunities, attended career fairs and Skills Ontario initiatives, and participated in entrepreneurial workshops. A highlight for 2019–2020 was the cardboard boat race and video challenge event hosted by Skills Ontario at the Dryden Recreation Complex. All Pathways teachers attended the event with student teams that competed in a race and weight challenge. Red Lake Madsen students captured a silver medal and Sioux Mountain students earned a bronze medal after competing against a full complement of regional teams.
Subsequently, two centrally supported Skills Ontario events were attended to full capacity with student representation from Grades 7–12 focused on Women in Trades and FNMI Trades and Technology Exploration. Students from Sioux Mountain Public School indicated in their exit slips that the opportunity to try some hands-on learning opened their eyes to trades that they would consider pursuing. Students from the region converged at the Dryden Regional Training and Cultural Centre to learn about OYAP, participate in team challenges, hear from mentors and attend hands-on workshops.
Critical to the Pathways program is the broader community that will also influence students’ decisions about their future. Students made connections with various community, regional and provincial partners and had their eyes opened to the many supports and services available to them within their region and beyond. The Grade 7 and 8 Campus Take Over Day at Confederation College and Lakehead University were cancelled due to COVID-19. However, Pathways teachers facilitated virtual events for students to learn about a wide range of programs, including those offered in our region through Seven Generations Education Institute.
Students in Grades 8 and 12 completed exit surveys in the spring of 2020. Pathways teachers and guidance counsellors did their best to capture student voices by supporting students in completing the surveys and reflecting on their experiences to prepare for Grade 9 and their initial post-secondary destination. Key findings will inform future programming to meet student needs and allow for comparison of 2020 to future surveys.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Pathways teachers are acknowledged for their efforts with the support of experiential learning funding to continue with hands-on activities to meet their students’ needs. Students participated in the virtual Skills Ontario #SkillsAtHomeChallengeSeries and shared pictures and videos with their Pathways teachers. Many Pathways students participated in the virtual conferences hosted by Skills Ontario. Pathways teachers initiated music programs, community gardening projects, building challenges, and culinary endeavours, to name a few. Pathways teachers implemented very creative ideas to keep students engaged while preparing them to transition in the fall of 2020, despite various challenges.
The Pathways program will continue to empower students to have confidence in their ability to develop a plan and revise and adapt their plan throughout their school lives and beyond as they and the world around them change.
Secondary Student Success Supports
Experiential Learning is a key component of our secondary programs supporting students as they learn about themselves, exploring career and employment opportunities that contribute to developing skills and habits necessary to succeed in education and career/life planning. These programs include Co-Operative Education, Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP), Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM), School-College Work Initiative (SCWI Dual Credits), and Land-Based Cultural Learning. KPDSB students are supported with varied experiences and opportunities. Combined with the learning expectations from Creating Pathways to Success, it is our vision that all students leave secondary school with a clear plan for their initial postsecondary destination. In high school, KPDSB programs are planned to support all pathways, including apprenticeship, college, community living, university, and workplace.
School teams have collaborated and communicated across our secondary schools, developing our capacity to offer successful Specialist High Skills Major Programs. SHSM programs provide opportunities for KPDSB students to engage in career-readiness learning in seventeen sectors. KPDSB offers SHSM programs in transportation, construction, manufacturing, environment, mining, business and health and wellness. We’re planning for the newly added arts and culture SHSM program for 2020–2021 at Beaver Brae Secondary School.
In 2019–2020, KPDSB graduated the highest number of Red Seals ever and added a new health and wellness sector at Ignace High and Dryden High School (DHS) and a new business program at DHS.
Each of our six high schools provided opportunities for students to work with community employers and partners, earning Innovation, Creativity, Entrepreneurship Certification (ICE) training as one of their SHSM components. Schools partnered with local municipalities and industry and provincial partners to deliver this training opportunity to students, focusing on problem-based inquiry learning with local employers in a virtual environment. Despite some challenges presented by COVID-19, students continued to access a full menu of opportunities to learn about career readiness in various sector-related fields, including the completion of online certifications, virtual Co-Op Education and access to state-of-the-art innovative e-learning solutions like EdgeFactor and myBluePrint. Students continued learning about local workforce development and market trends and built relationships with local companies and partners, pursuing individual pathways to post-secondary and employment destinations.
KPDSB partnered with Confederation College to support the delivery of Dual Credit Programs where students earn high school and college credits. Dual Credit Programs are designed to engage students, and the success rate for those who participate, graduate and transition to a post-secondary destination is very high. In 2019–2020, programs focused on Dual Credit opportunities supporting skilled trades and technology and land-based learning opportunities.
In 2019–2020, sixty-five KPDSB students accessed support from the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program. They participated in various skilled-trade placements, including general carpentry, automotive service, child and youth work and hairstyling. Before graduating, students participating in OYAP have opportunities to work with a mentor to develop the sector-related skills and knowledge required to consider an apprenticeship pathway. KPDSB’s OYAP enrollments in the educational assistant trade have increased by 20% over the past three years. We are very proud of KPDSB graduate Kitah Berens, who signed a Level 1 Agreement (310S Automotive Service Technician) in 2020. She is our first OYAP participant in a Dual Credit Program at Confederation College in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
KPDSB students participated in activities hosted by Skills Ontario, including events for young women and Indigenous students to explore the skilled trades and technology pathways. Students participated in skills challenges, heard from mentors representing various fields, and participated in hands-on activities, including plumbing, construction and culinary arts.
Cosmetology teacher Lisa Durocher from Dryden High School encouraged her cosmetology students to submit a hairstyle for the #SkillsWackyHairChallenge. Danielle Henderson was thrilled to earn a second-place finish with her tic-tac-toe design.
Experiential learning is a key component of our secondary programs. In response to the challenges associated with COVID-19, KPDSB students had access to experiential learning opportunities, including sector partner ICE training, virtual Co-Op, reach-ahead post-secondary virtual tours, access to certifications and training, skills competitions and math literacy sector partner experiences (SPE). The skills competition events are often the culmination of a student’s dedication to the pursuit of learning in the skilled trades and technology fields. Although these were cancelled in the spring of 2020, KPDSB students from Grades 7–12 continued to engage in the provincial skills-at-home challenges. Special acknowledgement is given to our KPDSB teachers who worked to provide engaging projects and share opportunities to support KP students as they learned from home, exploring career and employment opportunities that contribute to developing the skills and habits necessary to succeed in education and career/life planning.
The New Math Curriculum
As KPDSB begins implementing the new math curriculum, educators continue to focus on making connections between concepts, disciplines and everyday life.
The new curriculum requires teachers to move from assessing strands individually to providing a single mark on overall mathematics performance. To support our educators, our board has begun promoting teaching strategies, such as spiralling the curriculum, exploring the power of formative assessment, using high-impact strategies and highlighting real-life connections to math. We are also focused on building confident risk-takers who see themselves as mathematicians who value mistakes as an opportunity to learn and grow.
KPDSB has renewed our foci to include mathematical modelling, social-emotional skills, financial literacy, coding and cross-curricular math integration. To support our educators with these new strands, a one-hour introductory session during the first week of school was offered to ensure all staff were familiar with the changes and expectations. Since then, weekly lunch and learns, professional learning sessions for teachers, a monthly infographic and staff meeting presentations have been offered. Additionally, monthly learning sessions have been and will continue to be offered for administrators, focusing on curriculum, assessment, leadership and instruction.
This past summer, close to 60 students from Kindergarten to Grade 5 participated in Virtual Summer Learning Programs throughout the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board; one program was located in Ear Falls, two in Kenora, and one in Dryden. Participants were selected in consultation with staff and administration from the three communities’ schools.
Teachers integrated a variety of authentic contexts for literacy and numeracy instruction. These included incorporating FNMI perspectives and teachings, healthy and active living and community connections and partnerships through virtual field trips, experiences and special guests.
The Keewatin-Patricia District School Board Summer Learning Program was able to incorporate partnerships and collaboration to support the students. These included groups and individuals from local communities and across the province and provided students with learning opportunities that a typical summer learning program in northwestern Ontario would not otherwise have provided. This program component became extremely popular with the children and has proven quite impactful to their learning. These experiences gave students opportunities to develop 21st-century learning skills, including innovation, problem-solving, resilience and collaboration. All participants were highly engaged in these learning activities, which teachers used as a springboard for oral and written language and numeracy. The children’s excitement to share their learning with their parents also increased the level of program engagement.
The students participated in unique experiences that some students may never have had the opportunity to participate in or see, and this happened because of the technology we used. The technology showed the students that the world is at their fingertips, and educators transformed teaching by ushering in a new connectivity model. The students were able to develop and maintain their literacy and math skills with the learning that occurred; they also built their knowledge, which enabled them to make connections and develop critical thinking skills. The program inspired our students and convinced them that they can be whatever they want. It also helped them learn about their passions and interests and furthered their learning using a range of technological tools. It gave them a wide variety of learning opportunities that opened their eyes to the world and technology’s power to connect people.
The staff’s dedication, alongside innovative partnerships and programs, provided students with rich, experiential literacy and numeracy opportunities. Using the Summer Learning Program as the vehicle, KPDSB supported close to 60 learners in being well-prepared for the return to learning in September.
Optimized Staff Professional Development
A highlight in the spring was having speaker and facilitator Sandra Herbst work with the KPDSB administrators, system and school leaders. Sandra Herbst has extensive experience in leadership and pedagogical practices and is an author, speaker, coach, mentor and consultant in educational and system leadership, adult learning and assessment. During a challenging and unprecedented time in education, our director purposefully arranged for Herbst to provide professional development to system and school leaders. Herbst connected with KP leaders across the system to discuss Instruction Leadership in Right Now. Herbst skillfully modelled effective virtual facilitating strategies to actively engage learners and build relationships. This learning rippled across the system as our KP educators and leaders took these strategies and implemented them with staff and students across the system.
In addition to modelling effective online teaching strategies, Herbst challenged administrators and teachers to reflect on assessment practices and examine the power of effective assessment practices on student learning. Herbst provided practical and authentic examples of how to capture evidence of student learning through observation, conversation and product from primary to high school. In an interactive and contemplative manner, Herbst reminded educators of the importance of triangulating assessment to ensure validity and reliability. Herbst has influenced our system, and the learning continues as KP explores Sandra Herbst and Anne Davies LEAD books, and Herbst’s protocols are being used to deepen senior admin and the principal/vice principal’s learning. We are thrilled that Herbst will continue to work with school leaders in the 2020–2021 school year.
KPDSB is happy to report that despite the pandemic, the Board and its locals worked together and utilised virtual technology to complete our collective bargaining. This has resulted in the successful agreement settlement and ratification for all eight of our bargaining units (three ETFO bargaining units, four OSSTF bargaining units and one CUPE Unit). The Board wishes to recognize our union leadership and their collective bargaining teams and thank them for their willingness to find alternate means to accomplish this task.