Educating and equipping discerning disciples of Jesus Christ for restorative work in His kingdom
COVID-19: Cedars Updates
April 19, 2021: Please see our updated Health and Safety documentation below (green buttons).
Off-Site COVID-19 Resources:
Dear Parents and Caregivers,
In her book, Pursuing the Will of God Together, author Ruth Haley Barton notes that one of the beliefs that form a foundation for a sound discernment practice is that love is our ultimate calling. What love is calling us to do in a given situation is, perhaps, the greatest filter for selecting a way forward. Paul calls us to “let love be [our] highest goal!” (1 Corinthians 14:1), and John reminds us that when we love one another, “God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.” (1 John 4:12)
This season has provided many opportunities for our staff and leadership team to discern and pursue God’s will together, and we have endeavored to keep love at the center of each move. Some of these moves have arisen from desires that God has put on our hearts, internally (building expansion project, for example); some of these moves have been required by external events not of our choosing (at-home/in-class learning plan transitions resulting from COVID-19 responses). In all of these moves, we have and continue to ask: “What would love do?”.
On March 17th, under the direction of BC’s Public Health Officer (PHO), in-class instruction was suspended and a state of emergency was declared by the Premier. On April 6th, Cedars launched our at-home Continuity of Learning Plan with K-12 learners, with a strong commitment to “care and connection” with our families. With your support and the hard work of staff, we have made the most of these 7 weeks. In fact, many of our students are thriving! For those who have struggled with at-home learning, we have provided in-school care and support. For 5 weeks, we have provided care for over 20 children of essential service workers, and learning support for 15 vulnerable K-12 learners at the school.
On May 6th, the Premier unveiled our province’s Restart Plan, and the Ministry of Education subsequently announced a gradual, staged, optional return to in-class instruction for K-12 students. Over the past two weeks our leadership team has been processing information from the Ministry and feedback from our staff and families in order to prepare our school’s Stage 3 Continuity of Learning Plan (PDF)
Love is at the center of our planning.
As many of you have shared in your survey feedback, we are concerned for the well-being of our staff as they prepare another significant teaching and learning model transition. Our survey of families and conversations with staff also reveal significant concerns regarding health and safety in a return to school at this time. Our Stage 3 Plan outlines a return to school that provides margin for our staff to manage in-class instruction and at-home learning support for the month of June, and includes a Health and Safety Plan (PDF) that addresses many of the concerns that staff and families have expressed regarding exposure to and transmission of COVID-19.
Some of you have asked, “Why now?”, when we are nearing the end of the year and PHO messaging continues to highlight the need for physical distancing. There are many ways to answer this question, but some key reasons that we are pleased to provide more at-school opportunities for students, beginning on June 1st:
- It is safe to do so. Public health authorities have been vigilant with respect to the health and safety of all British Columbians, including our school aged children. The most recent guidance for K-12 school settings is that school-aged children have very low infection rates, are not the primary drives of spread, have milder symptoms, and pose low risk to other children or adults who work with them. We are confidently opening our doors, with health and safety measures in place, to work with children in our building.
- It is good for students. Although the majority of our students continue to thrive in this season, many of our students are falling behind academically and/or have socioemotional or mental health challenges that are exacerbated by this present crisis. For many of our students, school is an important, safe space for growth and development. All of our students have experienced some level of trauma in this season, and face-to-face interaction is needed (if not greatly desired!) on the heels of 7 weeks of various levels of isolation and physical distancing.
- It contributes to the common good. With the restart of our economy, many businesses are opening up. Return-to-school means that many of our parents/caregivers can return to work and/or can take some needed respite from the front-line responsibilities of supporting at-home learning.
Once again, we thank you for your feedback, support, and engagement over these past two months.
Before the end of this week, we ask all parents and caregivers to take some time to review the details of our Stage 3 Continuity of Learning Plan (PDF) and Health and Safety Plan (PDF). If, after reviewing these plans, you wish to sign-up your child(ren) for in-class instruction/support on June 1st, please complete this form before 10pm on Monday, May 25th. This will allow our staff and leadership team to prepare for working with your children on site.
Please note that return to school in June is optional for families. We will continue to support learners at home and at school through the end of June. However, if you choose to have your children participate in learning at the school in June, it will need to be arranged in advance. This opportunity is not being offered as a drop-in service.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding our Stage 3 plan, please contact me directly by email (firstname.lastname@example.org). We continue to keep your family in our prayers, and look forward to many glad reunions on our campus in June!
Dear Parents and Caregivers,
Last week, Premier John Horgan made a series of announcements regarding BC’s Restart Plan. A “coordinated, measured”, five-stage return to in-class instruction, with an “eventual safe and full return in September” was part of this announcement. The Deputy Minister of Education followed up these announcements with a bulletin to school authorities, stating:
“Schools…must begin planning a move to Stage 3 by June 1. This planning must include your local partners and Indigenous rights holders and take into consideration the latest information from the Provincial Health Officer…. Each school district and independent school authority will be required to prepare a Return to In-Class Instruction Plan prior to initiating Stage 3 in your schools.”
Cedars is committed to continuity of learning at-home and/or at-school for the remainder of this school year. Any return to school will be optional for families.
In a survey linked below, we are asking for your feedback on a number of aspects of a Cedars-based, “Return to In-Class Instruction” plan. Your feedback has been instrumental in the success of our at-home learning plan, and it would be beneficial for all if we could have your input before 10pm on Friday, May 15th.
For some, news of a return to school will bring a sigh of relief; for others, this news brings up a host of new questions and concerns. Our surveys of students, parents and families have indicated that at-home learning has been a good experience overall for a large portion of our families. Many may be content to finish out the year with at-home learning plans and support. Depending on the number and ages of children returning, our return to in-school instruction and support will look different. Again, your feedback is important for our planning.
Overall, a return to school before September allows us to “work out the kinks” and contribute to the common good in our provincial restart plan. We will know more from the Ministry of Education this coming Friday around timelines and guidelines for implementing a “stage 3” return. When we have put this together with survey results from our families, we will share our school plan with you.
Some immediate questions have been addressed by the Ministry of Education on their updated FAQ for K-12 Continuity of Learning website. Public Health advice for work with children in K-12 school settings have also been updated (see links below), and send a clear message to parents and staff that for school-aged children and the adults who work with them in a K-12 context, risk is low, and can be further reduced by school-based protocols. These documents and links are primary sources and provide more accurate information regarding government planning than what you may find from media outlets.
We are excited to see more of our students enter the building in the coming weeks! And, this return to school aligns nicely with a construction kick-off on our building expansion project. Work on the foundation begins this week, and our prefabricated steel frame structure will arrive at the beginning of June. We will start to see a new building rise up from the gravel platform over the next three months! I encourage you to read the Board update in this week’s Shake, and stay tuned to new developments on our Growing Together Expansion Project.
May the Lord continue to give you “daily bread” and demonstrate His faithfulness to our community as we put our trust in Him.
Important Parent/Caregiver Survey:
“Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.”
– Isaiah 40:28-31
Dear Parents and Caregivers,
In a recent interview, best-selling author, Brene Brown, names how many of us are feeling about the COVID-19 pandemic when she says: “we are weary in our bones”. As human beings, we have been created with a capacity for dealing with crises. Our fight, flight, and freeze responses serve us well in survival; however, adrenaline alone cannot support us through the uncertain timeline and long-term consequences of this present crisis. We need the strength of an “everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of earth”; the strength of the One who does “not grow tired or weary”; the renewed strength of those who put their “hope in the Lord”.
We are all eagerly awaiting provincial and global announcements regarding the return to “normal” life. Some of this news may be heartening (opening of businesses, return to in-class instruction), some of this news may be disheartening (ongoing restrictions, longer-than-anticipated timelines). Regardless, let us be mindful that it is only by putting our hope in the Lord that we will “soar on wings like eagles…run and not grow weary…walk and not be faint”.
Alongside our trust in the Lord for now and what may come, we seek to serve one another in love – being His hands and feet for those in our community. Our in-school support for essential service worker children and vulnerable learners continues to grow. We are currently providing care and/or educational support for close to 20 PreK-7 children and 8 high school students in different spaces across our main building. We are pleased to be able to serve families within and outside our Cedars community in this way. Planning is also underway for a June Service Day for our high school students and/or families, with a variety of outdoor opportunities to bless our community.
With at-home learning and in-school support programs in full swing, our leadership team has begun to refocus on year-end celebrations and 2020/21 school year planning. We are exploring PreK-7 celebrations in the last week of June that respect physical distancing regulations; and have selected dates for Grade 12 virtual and “live” graduation events in early June and late August. Stay tuned for dates and details.
We continue to receive new applications for the Fall and are following up with new student registrations. Our enrolment projections for 2020/21 continue to look strong, even in the face of this present crisis! Class compositions (elementary) and high school schedules are set, and we are finalizing our 2020/21 budget in preparation for our Society AGM at 7pm on Wednesday, June 17th. Details for this virtual meeting and remote participation instructions will be shared later in May. Next week, we will be surveying all new and current families around tuition to make final adjustments to our budget.
Please pray for wisdom for our leadership team as we interview teacher candidates for open Primary teaching positions, support families impacted by this crisis, and adapt our educational program to meet student needs in an ever-evolving landscape of provincial regulations. May the Lord give all of us strength in these times.
Dear Parents and Caregivers,
“The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” – Psalm 103:8
Last Friday, our staff gathered with our Northern Christian School colleagues to reflect on the overarching narrative of scripture and contrast it with the various “stories” in our culture. At the center of the Biblical story is our Lord – who is routinely described as “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love”. In the course of life (pre- or post-COVID), keynote speaker Rod Wilson reminded us that it is easy to forget God, define goodness on our own terms, and pursue independence.
In a world of entitlement, culture messages “you deserve it”; the Lord calls us to gratitude and saying “thank you”. In a world of victimization, culture messages “it’s not your fault”; the Lord calls us to remorse, repentance, and saying “I’m sorry”. And, in a world of individualism, culture messages “your story matters most”; the Lord calls us to care and compassionate inquiry, saying “tell me more”. Our Lord calls us to a better story.
This season provides a unique opportunity for families to consider our calling and practice gratitude, restoration, and care. I would encourage you to take time within your family to name those things and people you are thankful for. I would especially encourage you to say “thank you” to the teachers and support staff that are working hard to support at-home learning for your children. I encourage you to show grace to one another, to be slow to anger, and abound in love. If your family is anything like mine, living in close quarters for long periods of time is challenging! Say sorry, offer forgiveness, and seek restoration with the help of our Lord. And finally, care for others. Ask questions and really listen. Let us truly be God’s image-bearers in our various spheres of influence. May the world know whose we are by our love.
On behalf of our staff, I want to thank you for your continued support and encouragement. Your feedback on this at-home learning journey has been very valuable to our leadership and staff. This week, our educational support services coordinators will be specifically soliciting feedback around some of our diverse and/or vulnerable learners. However, if you wish to provide general feedback to our leadership or educational support team this week, please follow the link below to a Google Form survey for Week 4. We have also updated our FAQ page with new information regarding assessments and Spring events.
Although we are scanning the horizon for dates and discussing possible return to in-class instruction scenarios, there is no clear messaging from the Ministry of Education on this front to share at this time. We continue to pray and prepare for the time when we can continue living out His story on campus.
Dear Parents and Caregivers,
Three weeks in, one thing is clear: at-home learning is a lot of work!
It takes time to figure out new rhythms and spaces for doing school at home. There is a new kind of “tired” at the end of the day in our increased work with screens and virtual conversations, and new considerations about boundaries as we determine what is, exactly, “the end of the day”.
But, this is good work; it is meaningful work. My hope is that the new level of transparency and collaborative work between teachers, support staff, students, and parents/caregivers has given you a renewed appreciation for the “educating and equipping” work of discipleship.
We don’t have it all figured out yet, but we are doing well! Our check-in surveys and conversations with students and parents reveal that most of our families feel cared for, are connecting, and engaged in meaningful learning.
Our staff continues to connect and adapt learning plans to meet the needs of individual students and families, and we have added a new tier of at-school support for some of our vulnerable learners. Thank you for your feedback! In the coming weeks, we will be reducing the frequency of our home teacher calls and surveys, but we encourage you to keep connecting with your family “home” teacher, your child(ren)’s classroom teachers and EAs, and/or me if you have any questions or concerns.
It seems that we are finding our “sweet spot” in the frequency of meetings, contact time, and overall workload for individual students and families. As we head into our fourth week, we will continue to provide learning plans that are primarily implemented over four days, and use Fridays as our learning “turnaround” day.
On this turnaround day, students may finish up and submit weekly assignments, connect with teachers and/or EAs in 1-on-1 meetings, tackle extension activities, get outdoors, and/or engage in service/family activities.
Staff will use this turnaround day to perform a number of duties, including: providing feedback and assessment, connecting with students 1-on-1, collaborating with colleagues, responding to feedback, and creating responsive learning plans for the following week.
It is our hope that this turnaround day provides margin for staff and families to enjoy Sabbath rest and restorative weekend activities in this season.
This Friday, our staff will be participating in a Northern Christian Educators (virtual) conference with the theme of “Invitation to A Better Story”. We are looking forward to taking a step back from the intense redesign of our school learning plans to remember and reflect on the larger Kingdom story in the midst of this pandemic.
I would encourage families to also use this day to step back and reflect on the big picture story of our faith. Apart from faith, our days can be consumed with the story of a virus, economic crisis, sickness, fear, grief and loss.
As people of faith, we can choose to infuse our days with intentional, formational Christian practices. The Society of Christian Schools of BC (SCSBC) recently created a resource for families that “invites us to a better story” and provides practical suggestions in five areas of discipleship, including:
- Fostering Genuine Relationships with each of your children through affirmation, celebrations of growth, and listening
- Cultivating Spiritual Disciplines – personally and as a family, through reflective Bible reading, worship, silence and prayer
- Creating Leadership Capacity through service
- Developing Empathy, a heart for others, through acts of kindness, gratitude journals, and encouragement notes
- Engaging One Another in the Journey of Faith through the sharing of personal testimony and stories, and a cycle of watching and praying
We miss our interaction with you on our campus, and long for this suspension of in-class instruction and gatherings to be lifted! However, let us continue to make the most of every opportunity and be grateful for all that we have – including our Cedars Christian School community.
Dear Parents and Caregivers,
At the advent of this COVID-19 crisis, author Andy Crouch provided an analogy for leaders to consider in their organizational responses. He spoke of blizzards, winter seasons, and ice ages.
- In a blizzard scenario, we acknowledge that things are very difficult, provide care and support for immediate needs, and urge people to take extraordinary measures that would be unthinkable in ordinary times. Our posture is “wait it out”.
- In a winter scenario, lasting several months, we are not responding to a single event; rather setting things in place for a longer haul. Our posture is “planning and preparation”.
- And, in an ice age scenario, we need to consider how the whole landscape may be reshaped. Our posture is “adapt for flourishing”.
Over the past several weeks, our leadership team has considered and taken action based on all three postures. Mindful of the blizzard, we have suspended in-class instruction, initiated physical distancing and cleaning protocols on-site, established work-at-home protocols, and focused on care and connection across our Cedars community. Mindful of the longer season of winter, we have established and implemented an at-home Continuity of Learning plan, reshaped learner/family supports, opened up tuition assistance, and watched for “signs of spring” in the planning of important community events such as graduation. And, mindful of potential ice age impacts, we are identifying key learning standards and assessments to focus on, building additional tuition assistance into our 2020/21 budget, curtailing current year spending, assessing new construction timelines, evaluating current staffing needs, and considering tuition rebates and/or vouchers.
This is a big undertaking…for all of us. By the grace of God, and the trust we have built in our work together over the past 42 years, we have a good start. This was borne out in our strong, positive Week 1 survey feedback. Let’s keep working together!
We are encouraged by recent media releases by Minister Rob Fleming and Public Health Officer Henry that offer hope for a return to in-class instruction as early as June, and are pivoting some of our leadership focus back into planning for September 2020.
However, we recognize that our families have several immediate concerns. I want to address two in my communication this week.
First, as we move into our fifth week of isolation at home with our families, we recognize the increased need for parenting and health and wellness resources. Many of our staff are equipped to address mental health concerns. If your child does not have a previous connection with one of these staff members, please reach out to me and we can help them make contact. The Ministry and our Christian School Societies have also highlighted several new resources that can be accessed remotely, including: the Ministry’s Keep Learning resource, SCSBC’s Home Learning Wellness video series, and Open Parachute’s Wellbeing video series. A list of 24/7 hotlines and local help centers was also shared in our newsletter last week. And finally, our contracted school counselor continues to meet virtually with students she was working with, and is open to new referrals upon request through the school.
Second, we recognize that many of our families have questions about tuition. In light of COVID-related work stoppages and layoffs, some families are struggling to pay tuition. To date, we have released $35,000 in new tuition assistance funding to address immediate needs. Please contact the Business Office (email@example.com) if you need to access our tuition assistance program. We are also providing care for essential service worker children (PreK-7) and some of our children with diverse needs on site, at no charge.
In light of new roles for parents in at-home learning, some families have questions about paying for “reduced” service. None of us signed up for this in September; however, in less than 3 weeks, our staff have completely redesigned and implemented an at-home teaching and learning model to support our students and families in this unprecedented series of global events. Let me assure you that our staff are working harder than ever to fulfill their commitment to provide a quality, Christian education for your children. Although the amount of time with students has changed, our staff continue to take their responsibility for your child’s educational program seriously. We are soliciting feedback early and often, and adapting our plans to ensure we are supporting your family’s needs. We are monitoring our staffing levels and have had a number of staff agree to temporary unpaid layoff. And, as we get a better picture of the overall financial impact for our school, we will continue to demonstrate good stewardship – considering tuition rebates for 2019/20 and/or vouchers toward 2020/21 tuition with any “surplus” we experience in this season.
This blizzard will cease, this winter will come to an end, and we will likely bear the marks of some ice-age effects of this present crisis. It is my sincere hope and desire that this time will have the fingerprints of God all over it, and that we will come together again soon with a renewed appreciation for family and Christian community.
May the Lord continue to provide daily bread to meet our needs in these days.
More Resources and Government Information
On March 27th, the Ministry of Education provided a number of key updates to school districts/authorities, educators, and families on their Safe & Healthy Schools web portal. Our leadership team is reviewing these communications as they are released and making adjustments to our Cedars-specific Continuity of Learning Plan. Please take some time to review these communications and resources this week. Earlier today, we published our own FAQ page to address Cedars-specific questions and concerns. This page will be updated as new information and questions arise in our work together. You can find it at https://cedars.bc.ca/covidupdates/covidfaqs/
- March 27th News Release from the Ministry of Education
- March 27th Letter to Parent/Guardians from Minister Rob Fleming and BC PAC President, Andrea Sinclair
- Keep Learning web resource for parents, caregivers, and educators. This is an excellent resource that should be bookmarked by all. We anticipate that our Continuity of Learning Plan will reference many sections of this resource.
- The most current Ministry of Education FAQ document addresses many of the questions you and your child may have about in-class instruction suspension, commitment to continuity of learning, assessment, and graduation. As mentioned, our Cedars-specific FAQ will supplement this document.
- A Public Health Guidance Document for K-12 educational settings outlines guidelines that will be observed at Cedars in staff “return to work” plans, and any child care or learning continuance plans that we put in place for essential service workers (ESW) or vulnerable students/families in the school building. Cedars will be engaging families in the week of March 30th to determine need for this service for our community and the city of PG at large. We are looking for ways to serve the common good of our community in the face of this COVID-19 pandemic. NOTE: If you are an ESW and need immediate care for your children in the coming week(s), please contact our Principal immediately by email.
- And finally, a one-stop list of Provincial Supports and Information regarding COVID-19, including resources related to: child care, financial hardship / job loss, housing, transportation, health, and services.
Thank you for the many notes of encouragement and prayer for our staff, Board, and leadership team at this time. Know that you and yours are in our thoughts and prayers as well. We look forward to checking in with each of our families this coming week and continuing to serve the needs of this amazing community.
Email Communiqué to Cedars Community
FAQ on Continuity of Learning – Ministry of Education Update
The Ministry of Education, the Society of Christian Schools of BC, and our leadership team have been working hard over the past week on continuity of learning plans. Yesterday, the Ministry released a FAQ document on their Safe & Healthy Schools website that provides some answers to questions you or your child may have regarding their educational program. We encourage you to take some time reading through these questions. One of the things you will see immediately, is that much autonomy is given to local public school districts and independent school authorities in the implementation of their “continuity of learning” plan. The Ministry will be releasing an overall framework to schools tomorrow, but we have been meeting throughout the spring break with our leadership team to develop a local, Cedars-specific plan for learning. This will be a key focus for our educational staff next week. We will be in touch with individual families and sharing more information regarding our Cedars Continuity of Learning Plan toward the end of next week.
We want each family to know that we continue to be committed to our partnership in educating and equipping and discipling of your children through this challenging situation. Please note that we are aware that workplace closures and loss of employment has significantly impacted many of our families. We are working on some information regarding tuition this week and will have information to share with you soon. Thank you for your patience as we, too, sort through the impact of this COVID-19 situation on our school. Even as we grieve and mourn the loss of much that we have held dear in our face-to-face work with each of you, we continue to hold onto faith, hope, and love. May the Lord give you peace.
Email Communiqué to Cedars Community
School Continuance Plan
Dear Parents and Guardians,
Thank you for your prayers, support and patience as our leadership team has taken time to consider our school continuance plan. We are blessed to be part of a strong family of Christian schools across the province who care deeply about families and providing a Christian education for children. In this unprecedented, ever-evolving global pandemic, we want you to know that we are committed more than ever to your family’s well-being and our mission to educate and equip discerning disciples of Jesus Christ for restorative work in His kingdom.
Under the direction of the Provincial Health Officer, all BC schools are in the position of planning for learning continuity in the absence of in-class instruction. This is new territory for many of our schools. We don’t have all the answers. We know it will look different. Our leadership team has been in correspondence throughout this crisis and has attended virtual meetings with our Christian school colleagues. We have been watching the responses of our provincial neighbours who suspended in-class instruction ahead of us, and our teachers and EAs have been active – sharing ideas and resources in preparation for a new kind of learning experience.
Next week, our leadership team will be making contact with all of our staff members to assess their well-being and formulate a “return to work” plan for staff on Monday, March 30th. There will be no in-class or at-home learning directed by staff during this week.
In this first week after Spring Break (March 30-April 3):
- Staff will meet together (physically or virtually or both) to discuss and outline our school continuance plan for students and communication protocols with families.
- Teachers will make contact with each family to identify immediate needs, concerns, and questions.
- Parents will also be asked to complete a short survey that will help our staff plan and provide resources for learning experiences and support that fit your children and home situation.
Lord willing, we plan to launch our new school continuance plan with students on Monday, April 6th. This will be the first day of new, teacher-directed, at-home learning experiences. These new learning experiences will look different for primary, intermediate, junior and senior high school students. Recent learning guidelines posted by the Alberta government outline expectations (assigned work, course completion, assessments) that BC will likely adopt and that Cedars staff will discuss in our school continuity plan. We recognize that there are many questions you may have around learning needs/support, upcoming events, and assessment. We will be working to answer these questions for students and families in the coming weeks.
Cedars’ founding vision was to see staff and parents unite to help our children develop their unique potential and internalize spiritual values. Let us renew this vision together in the weeks ahead, and uncover new ways to demonstrate our core values of community and service in this current crisis. Know that our board, leadership team and staff care deeply for each one of our families, and will be working hard to fulfill our commitment to you as a school.