This fall, schools from coast to coast have grappled with the challenge of safely reopening doors during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although Public Health regulations and restrictions varied from city to city across our beautiful country, a few things were consistent in Catholic school communities throughout Canada– servant leadership, innovation and flexibility. In a recent virtual Board meeting, our members brought forth encouraging reports on the state of Catholic education in Canada.
While this fall presented more than its fair share of challenges, the Atlantic Region helped us put things all in perspective. “September 2020 was marked with the joy of students’ faces as they reunited with friends and teachers after six months. This joy and trust of students helped ease the tension and uncertainty of the staff. In many ways, the return of the students reminded us all what Catholic Education is all about and sparked in us a greater fervour for this mission to which we have been called.”
From educators to support staff, everyone in our Catholic education communities rolled up their sleeves to reopen classrooms, and in some cases, open brand new virtual classrooms. Robert Praznik, Superintendent from Manitoba Catholic Schools, said, “Principals really stepped up to the plate as they took to the challenges of an ever-changing reality. They gave up their evenings, weekends, and holidays to deal with the demands of a pandemic.”
Teachers, parents and students also adjusted to new ways of working, teaching and communicating. Ontario noted, “developing virtual schools has been a challenge creating enormous pressure on both instructional and corporate staff to organize virtual schools that are significant in size. In some urban centres, boards’ virtual schools are larger than many districts across the province.”
Despite the many challenges school districts faced, including fluctuating enrollment, an abundance of new health and safety protocols, and continually changing staffing assignments, Catholic schools embraced each issue with innovation and faith. Our faith-based communities found safe ways to learn and gather through virtual or physically distanced masses and liturgies. British Columbia reported, “Schools are making liturgies work in their communities. Mass will be attended with the student cohorts rotating on a daily basis, with Zoom being used for the rest of the classrooms.”