A school year we will never forget

Shelley Lawrence
Ottawa Catholic School Board Trustee


School year 2020-2021 is one we will never forget.

As someone who spent decades working with students in Catholic schools, I knew our educators were innovative, creative, lifelong learners. This year, they had to take those skills, mix them in a “pandemic blender” and create unique, exciting lesson plans that were good for both in-person and virtual learning. Our OCSB educators met that challenge and raised the bar. They transformed education on the fly while never forgetting the importance of citizenship, character, communication, critical thinking, collaboration and creativity.

At a recent board meeting, staff presented trustees with the highlights from our Environmental Stewardship Committee (ESC). The progress both system-wide and within our schools during a pandemic was quite impressive. The committee aims to support ministry environmental initiatives and develop working partnerships with other organizations such as Ecoschools, Laudato Si and Environmental Education.

Our ESC promotes environmental practices and outdoor education with students and staff. These practices run the gamut from proper use, storage and dispensing of batteries to energy and recycling. One of the key initiatives last fall was to find out more about Canada’s plan for a Single-Use Plastics Ban. The ESC was pleased to discover that many OCSB departments are already ahead of schedule in reducing the use of some single-use plastics. Departments are encouraging staff to use reusable cups and bottles and continue their efforts to establish additional environmental initiatives.

The environment wasn’t the only student-focused topic up for discussion. Trustees also learned all about mathematics in the virtual world. Educators and students were able to combine vital digital tools with their mathematics learning. The consensus was clear that integrating technology helped student learning and engagement. Some educators plan to take the lessons they learned in the virtual world back to their brick-and-mortar classrooms in September.

Trustees were also provided with an update on the International Language Programs. As in most continuing education programming, administrators and instructors had to find a way to offer the program virtually and they once again met with success. We provided 21 different language courses to our community.

Nineteen hundred elementary and 371 secondary students took part. To offer that many languages to that many students, 94 elementary instructors and 17 credit teachers were hired.

If you want to find out more, you can visit the board’s Youtube channel and check out the May 11 board meeting. Due to physical distancing and COVID-19 restrictions, our board meetings have been held virtually. You can tune in live from the comfort of your home on our YouTube channel. Our board meetings are open to the public and are held at 7 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesday of every month during the school year.

I want to say how proud I am of how our administrators, educators, support staff and fellow trustees handled this pandemic while educating our students. It is an understatement to say they did a good job – they did a great job! We all came together to ensure that student-focused learning, whether in-person, remote or a combination of the two, would continue to prioritize social and emotional wellbeing as well academic success. Like I stated at the beginning, it will be a year to remember for both its challenges and its victories!

If I don’t see you around the neighbourhood, have a healthy and happy summer.

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