This week's program featured a panel discussion by four esteemed educators, all members of our Rotary Club, discussing plans for BACK TO SCHOOL. We heard from Martha Rogers, Bonnie Evans, Barb Holmes and Marguerite Campbell. 
This topic is on everyone's minds these days, being mindful about the pandemic whilst balancing the urgent need for schooling. The timing of today's discussion today was perfect, coming right after yesterday's announcement of the Back To School guidelines announced by the Government of Ontario.
For such a contentious topic, the presentation ended on a positive note of optimism, with deep appreciation for the commitment of our educators in helping to steer along this difficult path. 
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But first, a snapshot of other Rotary business, before the program.
Rotary News & Comments
  • Aldo Villanovich attended our meeting and we were so pleased to see him. He expressed gratitude for the many condolences he'd received following the passing of his wife Hectorine last week. He added a few heartfelt comments about the power of Rotary as a support group, not only for making a difference in the world but also for supporting each other with friendship. Aldo told us about Rotary's support in the opening of another school in Guatemala, the third such school in the past four years. It will be named in Hectorine's honour. The school has five classrooms and was intended for 200 students with 40 students per room, but it is already at 730 students, with only two washrooms. Aldo's next goal is to raise $75,000 to expand the school. 
  • President Tracey raised several points:
    • She reinforced Aldo's comments about Rotary support by recalling the story of why geese fly in a V-formation. If you don't know this inspiring story, you can read about it here
    • She reminded us to Please Call A Club Member - at least one different member, every week, to simply ask "How are you doing?"
    • She thanked and praised our Program Committee for their outstanding work in making our weekly meetings so interesting.
    • She reminded everyone about our Centennial Book.  If anyone is not sure who to contact about getting their book, email Tracey or call her at ‭(519) 835-5808‬. Details about the book can be found here. It's fantastic.
  • Brian Martin recognized and thanked Jean Truex for her 18 years of service in running the 1*2*3 GO! program for pre-school education. See the separate article here
  • Anne MacKay told us about an estate donation of $250,000 that was recently made to Hospice Wellington. It is earmarked for supporting more hospice care in rural communities. Anne is helping with the reach-out to find out what is already being done rurally, and how Hospice Wellington can complement it. She is constantly amazed at the Rotary connections she comes across, and impressed at the instant credibility and respect she experiences when introducing herself as a Rotarian. Many of us feel the same way, Anne! 
  • Ab Moore told members that November is Rotary Foundation Month, and our Guelph Wellington Rotary Cluster will be hosting an event with Past District Governor Doug Vincent as speaker, on November 10th. Please keep this date in mind. 
  • Noma Vales reminded members about the opportunity to join a wide variety of Rotary International Fellowships which are special interest groups. There is a very long list of them, ranging from Amateur Radio to Yoga. Noma really enjoyed attending a recent online meeting of the Rotary International Hosting and Travel Fellowship and recommends it.  
  • Dr. Anne-Marie Zajdlik was not at our club meeting today, but received huge accolades and appreciation from those present for her regular and inspiring FaceBook posts about dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. Thank you, thank you, thank you Anne-Marie, from all of us.
  • NEWS FLASH: Our Rotary Centennial exhibition at the Guelph Civic Museum will remain on display for an extended period until November 1, 2020. 
Sergeant At Arms
Mahmud Hassain, our President Elect and present Sergeant At Arms, pulled out all the stops today in recognizing and fining a number of members for being Too Good To Be True. He highlighted Ruth Thatcher, Kerry Johnson, Anne McKay, and every member who had contacted another member last week. Finally, he highlighted Bob Ireland for his family's million dollar donation to the Guelph General Hospital this week. Read more here
Dr. Martha Rogers, Executive Director of the Upper Grand District School Board (and a Rotarian since 1991), led the panel and was very complimentary about the entire school board staff, her own immediate team, and everyone's hard work and commitment.
In Guelph Wellington, our public and catholic school boards are working in close collaboration. Both boards publish latest information on their websites:
Their latest joint statement states that, in our school district:
  • The first day of school for students remains Tuesday, September 8, 2020
  • Elementary and secondary students will be attending 5 days a week
  • Masks will be supplied for all staff in schools
  • Students in grades 4 – 12 will be mandated to wear cloth masks
  • Students in Kindergarten to Grade 3 will be encouraged but not required to wear cloth masks.
Today's BACK TO SCHOOL presentation by our panelists was fascinating and informative, and ran overtime due to the large number of engaging questions from attendees. We're checking to see if the Zoom recording of today's meeting can be made available for others to also learn about cohorts, quadmesters, the difference between synchronous and asynchronous remote learning, Google Classroom and Brightspace, who will be allowed to enter schools and who not, controlling movement within the school, no singing or playing of wind instruments, limitations on the use of common areas, cleaning protocols, transportation ... and more!  A survey will be issued for families to decide, by August 14th, whether or not their children will attend classes at school from September, or opt exclusively for remote learning, so that resources can be planned accordingly. There is a very long and difficult list of matters to be considered and decisions made.
It was truly impressive and encouraging to see the teamwork, diligence and empathy displayed by our school leaders. 
Thanks to Marty Fairbairn for introducing our panel, and to Paul Truex for thanking them.