When Cowichan kids head back to school in a couple of weeks, there is no question that they will step into an environment that is forever changed. 

SD71 Board Chair Candace Spilsbury says educators have been working hard all summer to support children and families, including providing hundreds of meal packages. She says they were concerned about at-risk children when the Covid-19 pandemic forced schools to close, and they will be continuing non-academic supports when classes resume. 

“We were really impacted by the amount of what we would call community support that schools and school districts are providing for vulnerable, special, unique students.”

Spilsbury says the District has been helping provide about 400 food packages to children and their families per week, and that support can’t just stop when the kids go back to school. 

She says schools have been re-imagining their role, in context of the whole community. 

“We really realized how much we are a part of supporting the whole community. So I think we will continue that way. Our relationship with the community, and our support of the community, has increased to such an extent, and we’ve all felt positive about it.”

Spilsbury says they won’t likely send food packages home, but they may expand food availability to children in Cowichan schools on a regular basis starting September 8th. 

Cowichan schools have also been working with local social service groups in order to help those in need access services in the community. “We have learned more about how to support kids and families that don’t have what others have. To help develop students’ mental health, and support them in whatever piece of their learning or development needs attention. And so it has been quite a learning experience for all of us to see how we can learn and grow and thrive together as a community.”

“Our staff is just amazing,” she says, “both at the District and school levels. Our teachers, our support people… everyone has just stepped up. Because we’re all in this together.”