Important information for families – March 30, 2020

Message from the Director

Dear Parents and Guardians,

Let me start by telling you how much we miss all of our 43,000+ students. We remain committed to the well-being of our students, staff and families. Every decision we make is guided by our Strategic Commitments to Be Community, Be Well, Be Innovative. We ask ourselves, is this in the best interest of our students, staff and the greater community?

We are living in unprecedented times, and no decision we make is in isolation. We continue to follow the advice of our local, provincial, and federal public health officials. 

We expect an official announcement early this week from the Ministry of Education regarding the extension of school closures. We are preparing for the continuation of learning for our students, knowing that circumstances are different for each individual. Last week and this upcoming week, our staff will be reaching out to students to ensure that they can best support their learning needs.

Thank you to all in our community who continue to offer essential services. This includes our students who might be working in part-time jobs such as in grocery stores, and of course our parents who serve so selflessly in the health care system. Thank you to all for doing your part to keep yourself and your children safe, and for your patience and understanding as we further prepare for learning until we are safely able to return to our schools. Blessings to all in our Ottawa Catholic School Board community. 

When will Classes Resume?

On March 23, the Premier indicated all Ontario schools might be closed longer than initially anticipated. While we wait for further direction on when schools will reopen, we are implementing strategies to help our students learn in meaningful and innovative ways. 

#ocsbAtHome Learning Resources for Families

You will find a curated collection of educational resources for students to supplement the Ministry of Education’s Learn at home website. Many thanks to our central staff who curated these supplementary resources to support #ocsbAtHome learning. As always our educators will continue to use their professional judgment to guide parents and students to the resources they feel are best suited to their class, grade, or course.

Graduating Students

We have heard from grade 12 students who are worried about their school year and how this affects university and college applications. The Province and our Board are committed to ensuring all grade 12 students on track to graduate in 2020 will graduate. We are awaiting specific direction from the Ministry of Education regarding secondary school credits. The Province is also working with colleges and universities to make sure students can apply seamlessly and get into post-secondary education. 

Picking up Essential Items or Devices from School

At this time, we are under a state of emergency and only those deemed essential services should be leaving their homes. While many wish to retrieve personal belongings from the school, everyone is doing their part to slow down COVID-19 by staying home. 

School-provided Chromebooks for Online Learning

Each school will be developing a plan to support your child’s needs that may include both digital and non-digital resources. We have ordered close to 2000 Chromebooks to supplement our existing stock, and we are now working with suppliers to see if they can deliver the units. Unfortunately, until we can access the schools safely, we are not yet in a position to distribute existing devices to students. We are working on a distribution plan so that devices can be redistributed to students once we get approval from Ottawa Public Health. This will take place in the coming weeks and your school Principal will keep you posted on the timelines and processes involved.

Our Educators are Reaching out this Week

During the first week of the school closures, educators touched base with students to see how they were doing and to gather any questions they had. This week, you can expect them to reach out again as they continue to plan learning activities to meet your child’s needs. 

Religious Resources

I encourage you to take the time to reflect, breathe, and find strength in our faith. You will find six religious education resources for families on our website. Students and their families may also enjoy watching a video designed to explain Lent to children.

It is not possible to attend mass in-person. Still, there are remote options available including the Ottawa Archdiocese Virtual Church.

Your Mental Health Matters

Many families are experiencing some feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. Our Special Education and Student Success Teams have put together curated resources to support students and their families. These well-being resources provide information and suggestions about how best to cope during these difficult times.

School Breakfast Replacement Kits

Starting this Tuesday, March 31, the Ottawa Network for Education’s (ONFE) School Breakfast Program will begin distributing School Breakfast Replacement Kits to several community food agencies.

The kits will include three food groups, including fresh fruit, 2% milk tetra packs, cereal or bagels, wholegrain crackers, unsweetened applesauce, and granola bars. Each kit includes 18 days of school meals. This week ONFE will reach seven community agencies and seven City of Ottawa emergency family shelters and is actively reaching out to additional community food agencies to broaden their reach as fast as they can.

We are Supporting Community Needs

Many of you are asking about redistributing personal resources to the healthcare sector. As soon as we can gain access to our schools, our staff will complete an inventory of school-based resources to donate for use in the healthcare sector. These will include some cleaning supplies, masks, gloves, and in some cases, the use of Board equipment such as 3D printers and CNC machines. Thank you to the many Board staff who have already reached out with the offer to assist in compiling resources for the most urgent local and provincial needs.

We are also working with the City of Ottawa to offer space for an Outreach Site for the Montfort Hospital. This site would be for patients who are ill but not affected by COVID-19. The requested location is the closed St. Patrick’s Intermediate School on Heron Road.

Do Not Play in School Yards or on Play Structures

Please do not allow your child to play on school play structures. OCSB play structures are not safe to use at any time when the ground is still frozen. Additionally, refraining from using play structures will keep your family safe and help stop the spread of the virus. You may also want to note the City of Ottawa has closed all sports fields, playgrounds and parks (including skateparks) for the same reason. 

Parents Want to Know…

It’s Not Too Late to Register for Kindergarten!

If you missed Kindergarten registration week in January, you can still register. If your child will be four years old by Dec. 31, 2020, they can start kindergarten at an OCSB school in September 2020. 

We hope to release an online registration tool on April 6 to allow you to register even while our schools are closed during these unusual times. In the meantime, we encourage you to visit Kindergarten at the OCSB or check out our YouTube channel.

Refunds for School Trips, Pizza and Milk Orders

Staff in our Finance department are looking into how and when this will be done. We should have more information in a few days.

Extended Day Program Payments and Refunds 

Families will not be charged for EDP when schools are closed. For some families, we were not able to stop the payments from coming through from your bank. If that is the case, you will be reimbursed. Work is being done now to ensure April 15 payments reflect automatic refunds for the following:

  • March 5 – 4th strike day – if your child was registered for Thursdays
  • March 16 – 20 – if your child was registered for March Break
  • March 23 – April 3 – for the days your child is registered for.

NSFs for March will be addressed at a later date. No further attempts will be made to withdraw from your account before April 15. Please continue to check for EDP fee information/refund updates.

Four Tips to Be Well

  1. Listen to reliable sources: Make sure that you are getting correct information about COVID-19. Read updates from Ottawa Public Health for reliable local information and data, and try to listen to professional news organizations, regional and national. 
  2. Stay home and wash your hands: Practicing physical distancing will reduce the risk of transmission. Don’t be afraid to slow down. Staying home is the right thing to do for your health, our healthcare system and everyone you care about. Also – wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands!
  3. Continue making wellness connections: Connect and reconnect virtually with people you trust and love. Speak to your extended family and friends on the phone, through social media channels or any manner that respects physical distancing rules. Nourish those relationships. 
  4. Move your body: Physical fitness is an essential aspect of your mental health and wellbeing. Take long walks, participate in virtual exercise classes, dust off all that old exercise equipment you have around your home. Just move! Remember, sleep also nourishes the body, so try to get at least seven to eight hours a night. 

Status of Events and Initiatives

Cancelled events: 

  • OCSB Special Olympics Swim Meet
  • All overnight field trips and exchanges
  • Cappies Gala
  • April extracurricular events

Postponed events: 

  • Catholic Education Week events

Awaiting decision on events: 

  • Proms and graduations
  • Athletic Banquets

#ocsbAtHome Highlights

Thank you to our incredible students, community and staff for sharing photos, resources, tips, best practices and ideas of how you’re learning from home using the hashtag #ocsbAtHome. We’re all in this together!
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