For the first time since 2019, the more than 700 staff members of Garden Valley School Division (GVSD) were able to gather in one spot to kick off back to school week. It happened yesterday inside Pine Ridge School's gymnasium in Winkler. Teachers to IT techs to bus drivers to educational assistants, essentially anyone involved in the division's school community was part of the event.

"Historically and traditionally, we get all staff together at the beginning of the year," explained Superintendent Dan Ward. "We haven't done this since the pandemic. Last year we provided a video address, and we thought, hey, now is a good time to get everybody back. As I said to the group at the onset of this short presentation, really it's a good way to just recognize and acknowledge that public education is a community endeavor, and takes many, many hundreds of staff to really make it work, and provide an excellent education for all our students in Garden Valley School Division."

GVSD school board chair Leah Klassen had the opportunity to speak to the assembly, too.

"I'm honoured to be a part of this group, and have the opportunity to address them, and to see all the faces that go into supporting our children every day," shared Klassen. "It's an incredible feeling to see all the dedicated people that work in our division."

Left to right; GVSD Superintendent Dan Ward, and GVSD Board Chair Leah KlassenLeft to right; GVSD Superintendent Dan Ward, and GVSD Board Chair Leah Klassen

Ward noted during the 2022-23 school year, staff were able to get together in smaller groups for various professional development opportunities, but this was the first time in four years all staff had the opportunity to gather in one place at one time.

"To get everyone together, including bus drivers and custodians and IT techs and EAs and teachers all at once, at least once a year, I think is critical as an organization," Ward said. "Not only to share the message around what it is that makes up our mission statement, but just to acknowledge this is a team effort."

"Hopefully it gives a nice positive message, and I'll speak on behalf of the Garden Valley School Division board, that we're thinking of every single person in this room as we sit around the table, and make decisions and recognize how critically important each role is to supporting and helping our kids grow and learn," stated Klassen when asked to reflect on how the gathering sets the tone for back to school week.

Early estimates peg enrollment at just less than 4,200 students, which is up significantly from last year. Ward noted that number could still change over the next four to six weeks, but it's clear the division is on a growth trajectory.

Kindergarten to Grade 9 student go back to class Thursday, with Grades 10 to 12 having their first day of school Friday.

Meantime, all schools in the division are open, and if parents have any questions, they can give their child's school a call, or if the question would be best answered by the Division, they can call the office at 204-325-8335.

- With files from Ronny Guenther - 

Dan Ward addressing the assembly Tuesday morningDan Ward addressing the assembly Tuesday morning

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