Sep 11
Welcome to the 2020-2021 School Year

I extend a most warm welcome to our returning families and to those joining our community for the first time.

To say that the start of this school year is unlike any we have ever experienced would be an understatement.

As we all attempt to navigate through this unchartered territory, it is essential that we all have a common understanding of and appreciation for the heightened health and safety protocols that have been put into place by the Calgary Board of Education, in order to ensure for the safety of students, staff, and families.

I would ask that you please, if you haven't already, familiarize yourself with our school's re-entry plan, which was emailed to you at the start of the school year and which is also contained on our school website at

Key highlights of the plan include:

  • Students and staff completing the daily health screening assessment before coming to school.
  • Students not arriving at school before 8:15 and promptly leaving the school and school grounds at the end of the day.
  • Students always entering and exiting through their designated doors.
  • Students remaining in their homeroom cohort for all classes, including physical education and complementary classes.  Instead of students changing rooms for classes, teachers are moving so as to limit the number of people traveling throughout the building. The only exception to this is when students, as a homeroom cohort, travel to PE and their complementary class.
  • Students always masking and sanitizing upon entering the school, at any time throughout the day.
  • Students and staff sanitizing whenever entering or exiting their classroom throughout the day.
  • Masks remain worn during class time as we cannot achieve physical distancing owing to class size and furniture limitations.  Please note that mask breaks are incorporated throughout the day for students while in their homeroom classrooms.  Masks are also required whenever students are travelling through common areas of the school.
  • Students are not to be sharing materials.
  • Students must remain in the same assigned seat for all classes.  This includes lunchtime.
  • Students must sign out whenever leaving their classroom.  Only one student is allowed to leave a classroom at a time.
  • Keeping to the right when walking in the hallways
  • Continual promoting of social distancing

In order to further minimize numbers of people in the hallways, we have moved to a “soft entry," meaning that students can start entering the building as early as 8:15 and go directly to their homeroom classroom for the 8:30 formal start to the day.

For lunch, we have implemented a staggered lunch.  Students in grades 4 and 5 go outside for the first half of lunch while grade 6 students remain inside to eat their lunch.  Half way through lunch, grades 4 and 5 students come in for lunch while grade 6 students then go outside.  This is intended to reduce the number of students congregating both inside and outside at any one time.

It should be noted that students in grades 7-9 are allowed to remain at school for lunch.  They have the option of spending the first half of lunch eating in their homeroom classroom and then they must go outside for the second half of lunch.  Those students who choose to leave for lunch must promptly exit the building at the start of lunch and they will not be permitted to re-enter the building until the end of the formal lunch period at 1:19.

I bring to your attention that we have received several expressions of concern and complaint from community residents about our students seemingly ignoring health and safety protocols during lunch time. This is of concern as we want to ensure that our students and their families remain safe.  We also have a citizenship role to play in ensuring that our fellow community residents feel safe and also remain safe.  To that end, I have visited all grade 7-9 homerooms, reminding them of necessary health and safety protocols so as to ensure that our community sees students being mindful, respectful, and responsible citizens.  Even more significantly, this has been done to ensure that your children's personal health and safety, and the health and safety of their peers, and their families, remain protected.  Parents, I ask that you please support us in this important work by frequently educating your children around the risks associated with Covid-19.   Additionally, if at any time you have questions or concerns related to communication we give students around health and safety, please contact me directly, so as to ensure the message you have received is, in fact, accurate.  I am more than happy to entertain those conversations with you.  My direct email is  Please feel free to also call me.  The phone number is (403) 817-3544.

Covid-19 has also necessitated some significant structural changes to our programing.  A big part of the grades 7-9 student experience is the opportunity to access option classes in addition to the core subjects of Language Arts, Math, Social Studies, Science, and Physical Education. Certain courses, such as Band and Foods, have been substantially restricted in terms of what can be attended to.  As well, option classes are a period during which students normally leave their homeroom cohort and take classes with students from another homeroom cohort.  In order to limit the “cohorts" to which students belong, as an additional means of working to reduce student risk, we have re-structured our complementary program.  For this semester at least, meaning until the end of January, students will remain in their homeroom cohort and take one specific complementary class every day for a period of between 6-10 weeks, depending upon their grade.  Students in grades 7-9 will each take a technology class, a construction class, an art class, a creative design class, and a fine arts class.

Additionally, school athletics has been postposed, as per CBE direction.  Also, extra-curricular clubs and activities have been postponed.   As well, we have postponed our first round of Parent/Teacher/Student conferences, which were scheduled towards the end of September.  We are working to creatively construct a process whereby parents will “virtually" have an opportunity to put a “face to the names" they have been hearing at home.  I ask for your continual patience as we work to construct a new process for this very important point of contact.

It should also be noted that all teachers maintain a D2L “Brightspace" shell which parents can access by visiting our website.  Brightspace course shells will contain important information about what is currently being studied in class, due dates for homework assignments, and test dates.  As well, students and parents can also track student achievement in class.  Moreover, teachers will upload assignments and additional learning resources to Brightspace.  This will be of particular benefit this year, should students be away from class for an extended period of time.

Every year, we welcome new faces to our staff.  I am thrilled to announce that three new teachers have joined our staff.  Ms. Taylor Berry is teaching music and fine arts.  Mr. Vance Lam is teaching Grade 6 math and science and physical education.  Mr. Stephen Becker joins us to teach grade 7 and 8 Language Arts and Social Studies.

Sadly, every year, we also say goodbye to some staff members and that is always difficult.  This year we say goodbye to someone for whom it very sad for me to be wishing farewell.  Kathy Van Heurn, our administrative assistant, was the second hired staff member of McKenzie Highlands in March of 2016.  Shortly thereafter, Ms. Van Heurn and I, sharing a table in the Area Office, began the process of constructing this new school.  Over the course of the last four and half years she has been indispensable to me, and all of our staff, in valiantly and proudly supporting the daily work of this school community. This Monday, she begins a new position with the CBE.  I know she will do excellently in her new role.  However, it is a huge loss for our school community.  Although we will replace the position, we will certainly not replace this most original “Legend!"

Over the course of the coming weeks, you will undoubtedly have many questions and concerns.  Again, I strongly encourage you to always bring those questions and issues directly to me, whether that be via email or phone call.  That way we can ensure you have clarity and accuracy around those concerns.  As well, if we know there is a problem, we are then better positioned to constructively fix the problem!  So please, stay in touch directly with me.

My best wishes to our students, parents, and staff as we journey through many unknowns before us during this most unprecedented time!


​Kel Connelly

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