The Cree school system must recover from the “trauma” of COVID-19

With attendance down and students dealing with the challenges of a third school year disrupted by a global pandemic, stakeholders from across the Cree education system came together this week to move forward with a recovery plan .

The Cree School Board held its first school committee meeting since 2015 on May 25-26 near Ottawa.

“We have learning gaps that have been identified. We have children who have now gone through three years of an incomplete school year in person,” said Sarah Pash, Chair of the Cree School Board.

Although the board doesn’t yet have full spring semester data and some schools fared better than others, attendance was down about 30% in the fall semester, Pash said.

This is something that concerns us a great deal.– Sarah Pash, Chair Cree School Board

“It’s something we’re very concerned about, because when you look at educational research, a 10% absenteeism rate puts a child at risk from school,” she said.

Several priorities were identified during the assembly, which brought together parents, elders, local elected officials, school principals, school trustees and others.

Improving parent engagement was one of the top priorities identified, Pash said.

One of the ways the board tries to do this is by Mozaik portal, which is a collaboration and communication tool between the teacher, school administration and parents, Pash said. The council started using it a year ago and hopes it will be available nationwide by the end of the school year.

Local school committees also renewed their commitment to reaching out to parents at the local level, finding other ways to involve them in school activities and celebrations, and organizing local education assemblies.

The school from a holistic point of view Cree

“There was a lot of talk about parent engagement and attendance…and how we were all going to work to effectively engage parents,” Pash said.

Sarah Pash is Chair of the Cree School Board. (Christopher Herodier/CBC)

Another priority identified was creating closer ties with the Miyupimaatisiiun Committees, which are local committees created by the Cree Health Board in the early 2000s to look at wellness from a Cree holistic perspective.

“During the pandemic, it’s really become very clear that our education system has to be part of the recovery, part of the recovery from this pandemic,” Pash said.

“Not only the trauma caused by the pandemic in terms of stress, anxiety and mental health issues,” Pash said, but also the longer-term impacts on opportunities for academic and professional performance, now and in the future.

“So there’s a lot of real work that we need to get on with,” Pash said.

Absenteeism rates are “something that we are very concerned about because when you look at education research, a 10% absenteeism rate puts a child at academic risk,” Pash said. (April Pachanos/ Cree School Board)

Jeremy S. McLain