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

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

WCDSB Announces Chair’s Award, Community Partner Award and Distinguished Graduate Award Recipients

Each year, the Waterloo Catholic District School Board proudly announces the recipients of three major awards: Chair’s Award, Community Partner Award and Distinguished Graduate Award.

This year’s recipients of those respective awards are Paul Cox (Principal of the St. Louis Adult Learning and Continuing Education Centres), the Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate, and Michael Dopp (Co-founder of Mission of the Redeemer Ministries). The awards will be presented at a suitable time following the conclusion of the current COVID-19 state of emergency.

Chair’s Award:

Presented to a person or persons in the school system who has contributed significantly to Catholic Education. It is given annually in recognition of outstanding contributions made to the Catholic school system serving the students, staff and greater community of Waterloo Region or to the betterment of Catholic Education in Ontario in general.

Paul Cox has been Principal of the WCDSB’s St. Louis Adult Learning and Continuing Education Centres for the past 15 years. In addition to being recognized for his long record of outstanding service, Paul is also saluted for his positive and energetic nature and his willingness to fearlessly seek and accept new opportunities for St. Louis’ diverse population and program base.

For more information about St. Louis, please CLICK HERE.

Community Partner Award:

Presented annually in recognition of outstanding contributions made by a community partner or agency to the Catholic school system serving the students, staff and greater community of Waterloo Region.

For 74 years the Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate have run Mount Mary, which over the past 44 years has served more than 55,000 WCDSB students.  Their Grade 8 retreat experience has long been a treasured culminating activity of the WCDSB elementary years experience.

For more information about the Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate, please CLICK HERE.

Distinguished Graduate Award:

Presented to a graduate of more than 10 years from our school system who has demonstrated outstanding examples of the Ontario Catholic School Graduate Expectations. Awarded at the graduation exercises of the recipient’s Secondary School or other appropriate public venue.

A co-founder, along with his wife, of Mission of the Redeemer Ministries in Ottawa, Michael Dopp has been noted as a “trail blazer” by Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast.  A sought-after speaker, Michael is a graduate of St. Boniface CES and St. Mary’s High School and has dedicated his efforts to evangelization both locally, nationally and internationally, thus exemplifying the very best of the Ontario Catholic School Graduate Expectations.

For more information about Mission of the Redeemer Ministries, please CLICK HERE.

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

COVID-19 – Coronavirus Update

March 13, 2020

As a result of the Government of Ontario’s order for all publicly funded schools in Ontario to remain closed from March 14, 2020 to April 5, 2020 (https://news.ontario.ca/opo/en/2020/03/title.html), the Waterloo Catholic District School Board is taking the following actions to further assist in limiting the spread of COVID-19:

  • Effective March 14, 2020 to April 5, 2020 all WCDSB schools (including all St. Louis Adult Education campuses) are closed.
  • Effective March 16 all Extended Day programs are cancelled. Families registered in WCDSB operated programs will not be charged fees during this time period.
  • Effective March 14, 2020 to April 5, 2020 all Community Use of Schools permits are cancelled.
  • WCDSB Co-op placements, Dual Credit and SWAC programs are cancelled.
  • The March 23, 2020 public meeting of the Board of Trustees is cancelled. Any delegations pertaining to the St. John CES Boundary Review will be received as planned on Monday, April 6 at the regularly-scheduled Board Meeting, and again at a Special Public Board Meeting on Monday, April 20, 2020.
  • The March 26, 2020 Blessing & Dedication ceremony for the newly-renovated Waterloo Region Catholic Education Centre is postponed to a later date to be determined.

The safety and wellbeing of our students and staff is always our top priority, and we will continue working with local Public Health staff to ensure our schools remain clean, safe and welcoming in anticipation of the resumption of school in April. We encourage everyone to remain vigilant regarding hand hygiene and cough / sneeze etiquette and to follow all Public Health guidance and directives.

We ask all WCDSB stakeholders to continue monitoring our special COVID-19 web page for up-to-date information (https://www.wcdsb.ca/covid-19-coronavirus-updates/)  — and our prayers continue for all those around the world who have been or will be affected by COVID-19.

 

Tentative Collective Agreement Reached — OECTA

March 13, 2020

On Thursday, March 12, 2020, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA), the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association (OCSTA) and the Government of Ontario reached a tentative collective agreement. As a result, OECTA has suspended all strike activity pending ratification of the agreement.

OECTA members across the province will participate in ratification votes on Tuesday, April 7 and Wednesday, April 8, 2020.

All Waterloo Catholic District School Board Schools Closed on Thursday, March 5, 2020

Labour Updates St. Louis

 

February 28, 2020

The Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) has announced that all of its members will be engaging in a one-day strike on Thursday, March 5, 2020. This decision affects all Catholic district school boards in Ontario.

As a result of this strike, all Waterloo Catholic District School Board elementary and secondary schools will be closed on March 5.

In addition to the closure of all WCDSB elementary and secondary schools on March 5, please note the following:

Some programs offered at the WCDSB’s St. Louis Adult Learning & Continuing Education Centres will be cancelled on March 5 —  they are:

  • Hairstyling will be closed
  • Culinary Arts will be closed
  • Secondary School Credit Day School will be closed
  • Correspondence services will be closed
  • Guidance services will be closed.

All other St. Louis Adult Learning & Continuing Education Centres programs will be running as per their normal schedules.

All WCDSB extended day programs will be open for the day as usual (7 a.m. to 6 p.m.) for students currently registered in the program.

Community use of schools activities will continue as scheduled.

OECTA’s previously announced job actions will remain in effect before and after March 5.

As before, we remain hopeful the two sides will return to the bargaining table quickly and will come to a fair and respectful agreement that serves the best interests of our students.

All Waterloo Catholic District School Board Schools Closed on Monday, February 24, 2020

Labour Updates St. Louis

February 19, 2020

In the absence of a provincially-negotiated collective agreement, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) has selected the Waterloo Catholic District School Board as one of the Ontario school boards included in a one day rotating strike on Monday, February 24, 2020.

As a result of this strike, all Waterloo Catholic District School Board elementary and secondary schools will be closed on February 24.

This one day strike is in addition to the province-wide one day OECTA strike already announced for Friday, February 21, 2020.

In addition to the closure of all WCDSB elementary and secondary schools on February 24, please note the following:

Some programs offered at the WCDSB’s St. Louis Adult Learning & Continuing Education Centres will be cancelled on February 24 —  they are:

  • Hairstyling will be closed
  • Culinary Arts will be closed
  • Secondary School Credit Day School will be closed
  • Correspondence services will be closed
  • Guidance services will be closed.

All other St. Louis Adult Learning & Continuing Education Centres programs will be running as per their normal schedules.

All WCDSB extended day programs will be open for the day as usual (7 a.m. to 6 p.m.) for students currently registered in the program.

Community use of schools activities will continue as scheduled.

OECTA’s previously announced job actions will remain in effect before and after February 24.

As before, we remain hopeful the two sides will come to a fair and respectful agreement that serves the best interests of our students.

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