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COVID-19 – Coronavirus Updates

Ongoing Updates

For information and resources to assist in learning at home, please click on the WCDSBLearn@Home image.  

CoronavirusUpdate

Ongoing Updates

School Closure Announcement

May 19, 2020

The Government of Ontario has announced that schools will remain closed for the remainder of this current school year. We will provide additional information as it becomes available. Please visit https://wcdsblearnathome.wcdsb.ca for all the most up-to-date information.

The official government announcement is available here: https://news.ontario.ca/opo/en/2020/05/health-and-safety-top-priority-as-schools-remain-closed.html

Special Message from the Chair of the Board & Director of Education

May 12, 2020

Dear Waterloo Catholic Community –

We hope that you found ways to enjoy the Mother’s Day Weekend despite the less than spring-like weather and that fact that many of us were unable to celebrate in the more traditional ways that have characterized years past.  It has been a few weeks since we have connected, so we thought it important to offer you a few important updates.  As always, we sincerely hope that you and your families are well and that you are finding ways to stay healthy and positive.  We want to commend our WCDSB community for the impactful and joyous ways we managed to still celebrate Catholic Education Week.  Few of us could have predicted how appropriate or needed our theme of Igniting Hope would be.  It was truly heartening to see the many videos, messages, artwork, pictures and reflections of hope in our schools and homes.  Truly we believe we all feel the importance of our faith and our community at this time.

We are now settling into our journey of educator-led distance learning.  We know that for some it will be going well and that for a variety of reasons, for others, it may still be a challenge.  Our realities are each different and at Waterloo Catholic we are working hard to ensure the best possible experience for our students.  You may recall the invitation we gave our stakeholders in the week of April 14th to 21st to engage in a Thought Exchange where you were invited to share your concerns and questions.  We have now processed all that feedback and we would like to share with you what you said and how we would like to respond.

We are pleased to report that we had over 1,900 respondents, 1,700 thoughts and 37,000 ratings.  We had a broad cross-section of voices and the number of respondents from each group was a good representation of that stakeholder group.  Parents in general did reflect that they appreciate the efforts of their children’s teachers and we could certainly not be prouder of the hard work of so many to connect our students with learning at this time.  Elementary parents told us that they can be over-whelmed at times with balancing their own responsibilities and their children’s learning, that sometimes they need better clarity on what is optional and that they would appreciate a better sense of routine.  Perhaps most of all – they desire that connection between educator and home.  Secondary parents are also looking for clear communication and want to remain involved in their child’s learning.  They would like to see the inclusion of synchronous (‘Live”) learning or video conferencing.  And there remains a concern about their children’s report cards and post-secondary impacts.

We would like to report that we have heard you.  We continue to provide our teachers with further guidance and clarity about assessment, evaluation and reporting during this time of distance learning.  We have also worked on staff communications that are intended to strengthen consistency and clarity of expectation, while also looking at ways to solidify our collaboration with one another as staff.  We have heard you that a sense of routine is important and we will be working to reinforce that message.  We are also providing further professional development on good practices connected to synchronous learning, which remains an option in a teacher’s toolkit.  No student should be adversely affected as a result of COVID-19 school closure and we are working hard to ensure that is the case.  We know that equity issues matter to you and we are doing our best to bridge gaps, but providing resources and supports where they are needed to the best of our ability.

We are most appreciative to our staff who have worked so hard to put provisions in place so that we could reach all of our students.   One common theme regardless of stakeholder group-  was the desire for connection.  We miss one another – and that is both heartening and normal.  Schools are remarkable places where relationship and community are forged, and maintaining that strong sense of connection is hard work.  We hope you will agree with us that our staff have certainly risen to the occasion and we know that each one has put their best foot forward in support of our students.  The sense of care and the love for their students is evident.  The physical, mental and spiritual well-being of our students remains our priority.  That said – we will continue to prioritize this work and the strong sense of family that we have as the community of Waterloo Catholic.

Thought Exchange Thoughts and Themes

We know that further clarity about the length of the closure is likely to come later this week.  Full clarity about our return or what that might look like when we do return, may still be a while in coming, but we are committed to sharing those details when we have them.  We also know that seminal spring events such as communions, confirmations and graduations are currently being re-imagined.  We are hopeful that we will be able to have fall convocations for our graduates.  We know that you are missing the opportunity to celebrate this spring.  There are some virtual and media events which will assist in the short-term.  Communions will be re-scheduled in the fall, parish by parish, as we are able.  Similarly, once we are able, more information will follow about confirmations, as we learn about the availability of the Bishop and/or Vicar, and balance that with the size of the confirmandee class.  There is an intention to proceed, once we are able.

As always, on our WCDSB board website you will find from our home page a link to WCDSBLearn@Home where a host of additional resources for all learners will be found.  We also encourage you to continue to visit our WCDSBPray@Home webpage as well as our FAQ page.

Finally – as we have said before, we do encourage you to closely follow any and all directives from our governments and Region of Waterloo Public Health.  As we have reflected before – we are apart but never closer.  Let us commit to being there for one another.  Reach out to us through your local school.  While our Thought Exchange is done for now, we are still interested in hearing from you and walking with you.  Please reach out to us if you need help or guidance, and remain confident that we are here to support you, as we walk together as a hope-filled community.  #WCDSBTogether.

Sincerely,

Loretta Notten                                           Bill Conway

Director of Education                             Chair of the Board

Special Message from the Chair of the Board & Director of Education

April 23, 2020

Dear Waterloo Catholic Community –

It has been a few weeks since we have connected, so we thought it important to offer you a few important updates as we continue to navigate this time of school closure and distance learning.  Let us begin by saying that we truly hope that you and your families are well and that you are finding ways to stay healthy and positive.  As an Easter people we pray that the hope of the season is alive in your homes.  But these are unsettling times for everyone and we believe it is absolutely OK to feel that you are not OK.  We know that each of us has a unique reality and that will position us differently in terms of our ability to walk through this time and to support our children’s learning journey right now.

For the past three weeks we have begun the journey into Educator-led learning and it could not have been done without the tremendous efforts of so many.  We are most appreciative to our staff who have worked so hard to put provisions in place so that we could reach all of our students.  We hope that every student continues to have contact with their teacher(s) and that each one knows that we care for and value each of them.  Your teachers are truly amazing and they are definitely here for you. We will reiterate that our most pressing concern remains student well being – both mentally and physically.  As we have said before, it is not “business as usual”, but we do hope that students are connecting with their teachers as this is our “new normal” for the time being.

We wanted to provide you updates on a few different topics of interest to you and your children.  Know that this is a rapidly changing landscape and with many uncertainties, and as there are many players to both consult and work with, as well as others who provide us vital direction or information, sometimes full clarity takes a little time.

As always, on our WCDSB board website you will find from our home page a link to WCDSBLearn@Home where a host of additional resources for all learners will be found.  We also encourage you to continue to visit our WCDSBPray@Home webpage as well as our FAQ page.  You can also follow the #STEAMDays hashtag where lots of fun and engaging activities are being posted.  With that said, a few updates:

Length of the closure: 

We are awaiting direction from the government and Ministry of Education on this point.  We expect it will be forth coming soon.  While it is unlikely we will be returning to our buildings in the short term, full clarity about our return or what that might look like when we do return, may still be a while in coming.

Expectations During Distance Learning:

We realize there are different realities for all of our students and all of our educators.  For that reason, each student and teacher is held to the guidelines the Ministry has provided for minimum hours.  To review what we have shared previously – the suggested hours reflect both the time a teacher might use in providing formal instruction or guidance, as well as the time the student will spend completing the learning task or activity.  There is not a firm expectation that all students have to be “online” at the exact same time, although in some cases that might happen on occasion.

Assessment and Evaluation:

Equity has been a significant consideration in this new landscape as not all children are equally positioned to succeed to the best of their ability when learning from home.  We also know that students learning from home can place added pressure on a parent who may be juggling their own work or family related responsibilities.  For these reasons, assessment in elementary is taking the form of feedback or formative assessment, rather than grading.  Students can benefit and continue progressing through this feedback.  For our students in secondary, they will receive both formative and summative assessments – that is feedback and grades, but teachers will be working to support a student’s best outcome and will not be penalized if the current circumstances detract from their ability to succeed.  Marks will not drop below that attained on March 13th, when schools were declared closed.  There is however every opportunity for a mark to improve, and for learning and achievement to be enhanced.

Report Cards:

There will be a report card in June for all students and they will contain grades.  As noted above, those grades will be largely informed by the marks students had attained prior to March 13th, but there is every opportunity for those grades to improve based on any work submitted during this time of distance learning, if there is evidence of growth and/or improved performance.  In the case of graduating students, midterm marks were sent to the Universities and Colleges to assist with post-secondary admission.

Graduation:

We know that graduation is a significant event in the life of a student and his/her family. For this reason, this has been a difficult decision.  Our secondary schools have no option but to postpone graduation ceremonies as a result of venues not being available to us.  As you can appreciate secondary graduations are often large events and so they are not easily accommodated in alternate settings.  We have made the decision that all of our secondary schools will hold their graduations in the fall.  This will in no way impact a student’s ability to actually graduate from high school should they have met the requirements.  We are still in the process of finalizing our decision in relation to grade 8 graduations and will communicate that information as soon as a final decision has been achieved.

Thought Exchange – Your Voice

As most of you will be aware, we recently engaged our stakeholders in an exercise of asking them what questions or concerns they had after one-two weeks of distance learning.  Our survey closed on Tuesday April 21st in the evening and we are now starting to unpack that feedback.  We are thrilled that you took us up on this invitation.  We had just under 2000 participants and approximately 37,000 ratings from all our stakeholders.  We know that at a very high level elementary parents are expressing thoughts about the home learning environment and the types of tasks students are assigned, about feedback and assessment, and about equity.  Secondary parents are sharing thoughts about the nature of student and educator contact, and also about feedback and assessment, as well as issues related to equity.  There are roughly 14 sub-themes in the Thought Exchange feedback that we have identified and there is much more analysis we can do, and it will help to inform our thinking and actions moving forward.  A high level report on parent feedback is available at these two links, but much more will be shared in the weeks to come, that will map to themes and the take-aways from the feedback.

Parent/Guardian for an Elementary Student

Parent/Guardian for a Secondary Student

Finally – we encourage you to closely follow any and all directives from our governments and Region of Waterloo Public Health.  As a local and global community – we have never been more connected by an event or issue and now is the time to do everything we can to ensure we can soon return to life as we knew it not so long ago.  As an Easter people we believe in the power of the resurrection and the promise of new life.  Certainly this signs of the season affirm that promise.  Please reach out to us if you need help or guidance, and remain confident that we are here to support you, as we walk together as a hope-filled community.  #WCDSBTogether.

Sincerely,

Loretta Notten                                                Bill Conway

Director of Education                                  Chair of the Board

Special Message from the Chair of the Board & Director of Education

March 31, 2020

Dear Waterloo Catholic Community –

We hope that you and your family are well and staying healthy.  Today we learned, that as a key part of the Government of Ontario response to the COVID19 crisis, that the closure to schools is extending to May 1st, 2020.  The government will continue to monitor the situation and further extensions or updates may occur.  We reiterate, that these decisions are being informed by a concern for preserving the health and safety of all, and in this regard we know that each of us shares a common goal.  Realizing that this extension of the closure was likely, and as previously communicated, both the provincial Ministry of Education and locally here at Waterloo Catholic, we have been preparing for remote teacher-led learning.

Today the Ministry released a memo that provides explicit guidance to all of us about expectations for learning.  It provides an outline of the number of hours teachers and students should engage in learning – based on their grade level.  To be clear – the suggested hours reflect both the time a teacher might use in providing formal instruction or guidance, as well as the time the student will spend completing the learning task or activity.  There is not a firm expectation that all students have to be “online” at the exact same time, although in some cases that might happen on occasion.

Both Waterloo Catholic and the Ministry of Education have been thoughtful about matters of equity, as they apply to access to technology, to internet, language barriers, students with special needs and varying home environments.  All to say – this is not a “business as usual” learning environment but at Waterloo Catholic we will strive to do our very best to ensure each student feels valued and is connected to learning.  One thing we are doing in this regard is working on Chromebook distribution to those families who indicated the need for a learning device.  Your local school will provide more detail if you are an affected family.  Deployment is happening this week.  That said – at Waterloo Catholic, our number one priority will be ensuring that each child experiences connection and that they know their teacher cares.

We would also like to draw attention to the fact that while there will be consistent expectations for students in the same grade, that optional, additional activities will also be made available to all students.  On our WCDSB board website you will find from our home page a link to WDCSBLearn@Home where a host of additional resources for all learners will be found.  We also encourage you to continue to follow the #STEAMDays hashtag where lots of fun and engaging activities are being posted.

We understand that there is added anxiety for students who are in senior grades of high school or in graduating years.  This too is something to which we are very attuned.  The Ministry has provided some direction today and there will be ongoing conversations and plans that will be communicated in relation to these students.  Certainly there is an intent that no student on track to graduate – or any student – should be negatively impacted by the current public health crisis.

Finally – we encourage you to closely follow any and all directives from our governments and Region of Waterloo Public Health.  As a global community – we have never been more connected by an event or issue and now is the time to do everything we can to ensure we can soon return to life as we knew it not so long ago.  We wish your family good health as we look ahead to Holy Week.  Please continue to remain confident that we are here to support you, as we walk together as a hope-filled community.  Our faith will be a source of comfort and strength, as will the sure knowledge that after the pain and heartache of Good Friday, comes the hope, joy and new life of Easter.

Sincerely,

Loretta Notten                                                Bill Conway

Director of Education                                  Chair of the Board

Special Message from the Chair of the Board & Director of Education

March 24, 2020

Dear Parents / Caregivers –

Since last we reached out to you, the global situation in relation to COVID-19 has continued to worsen and here at home we have seen unprecedented actions taken by our federal and provincial governments.  As you know, schools are now closed and it would appear that this will stretch beyond the Easter weekend, although exactly when we might return to face to face learning is not yet clear.  These decisions are being informed by a concern for preserving the health and safety of all, and in this regard we know that each of us shares this common goal.  Nonetheless, the news that students will be home indefinitely may be disconcerting to you and your child.

We want to assure you that at the Waterloo Catholic District School Board, we will be working to the best of our ability and in collaboration with the province, to ensure that your child is connected to learning opportunities.  We will use the initial two weeks for the board to support our teachers in establishing at least an initial contact with all of their students through the most appropriate means possible, including mail, phone, email or other channel.  We will try to use this time to establish what is needed to support teacher-led learning and to aid you as families, to the best of our abilities under the circumstances.

We also want to acknowledge that this could be a time of great uncertainty and anxiety for our students.  We would encourage you to visit our board website where a number of resources can be found that may be helpful to you or your child, as you navigate this time.  We are also truly blessed to have our faith and prayer to aid us at this time.  Our God walks with us always and the Holy Father reminds us that prayer is a sign that we are not alone.

While we are in the process of “gearing up”, we would remind parents that WCDSB has launched #STEAMDays, a fun and interactive way to be connected to activities that have a daily focus on science, technology, engineering, the arts or mathematics.  Further, the Ministry of Education has launched the website Learn at Home and you are encouraged to visit that site for learning activities.

Finally – we encourage you to closely follow any and all directives from our governments and Region of Waterloo Public Health.  As a global community – we have never been more connected by an event or issue and now is the time to do everything we can to ensure we can soon return to life as we knew it not so long ago.  We wish your family good health.  Remain confident that we are here to support you, as we walk as a hope-filled community of faith toward the season of Easter and the re-birth it brings.

Sincerely,

Loretta Notten                                                              Bill Conway

Director of Education                                                  Chair of the Board