News from the Boardroom – April 28, 2020

Did you miss our Board Meeting on April 28, 2020? Not to worry, here are highlights from the meeting. Watch Full Meeting on YouTube.

OCSB Professional Development During COVID-19

The OCSB Professional Development Website is an ongoing and evolving forum designed to support educators’ work during COVID-19. 

Rationale for Website: The website was first established to provide staff with online Professional Development as a means of allowing people to work from home in a safe but effective manner and also support board priorities.

However, the Board’s focus changed once the government’s ‘Learn from Home’ was announced. Resources shifted to help staff manage their wellbeing and deliver curriculum from home. 

Quality Content

  • Online resources for mathematics, literacy, religion, and online learning are part of the site
  • Proven teacher resources that OCSB educators are comfortable using were uploaded 
  • Limited professional learning content was added so as to not overwhelm staff and;
  • Director Updates
The Ottawa Catholic School Board launched an internal Professional Development website for staff during school closures.

Phase 1

  • The initial strategy focused on the effective delivery of the online curriculum
  • A feedback survey was designed to ensure the site was meeting educator needs

Phase 2

  • Leading & Learning staff along with Learning Technologies consulted and facilitated the creation of a platform for webinars, podcasts and tutorials
  •  A curated collection of learning opportunities is maintained and updated by Leading & Learning staff  

Phase 3

  • A refresh is underway as priorities are shifting from an educator focus to a whole system focus 
  • The goal is to ensure ease of use by all employees and;
  • To amalgamate educators and other school staff content 

Supporting Students with Special Needs

Staff continue to reach out to students with special needs and offer support and guidance relating to Distance Learning. 

As the situation continues to evolve, we will adapt services to meet the needs of students, families and schools. SEA Learning Partners are supporting students in accessing assistive technology with easy to use manuals such as Welcome to Your New SEA Chromebook.

Special Education resources have been placed on the Board website to help families looking for targeted resources. As well families have been using News2You to help spread happiness in the home. 

Special Education Consultants and Itinerant Resource Teachers will continue to support schools through a responsive-tiered approach to provide personalized support to school Communities.

Special Education Professional Learning opportunities are continuing; they include:

  • A modified ABA conference
  • A reworked Third Path conference and;
  • PECS workshops

Equity Action Plan During COVID-19 Pandemic School Closures

Despite school closures, OCSB educators, administrators and support staff did their best to reach out to all OCSB families. There were, however, a small number of families we were unable to reach. Approximately 160 families have yet to be contacted, but that number includes those who choose not to participate for personal reasons.

We continue to reach out in hopes of meeting the needs of all families. We implemented a communications plan that included social media, radio, posters, letters home and community outreach.

Social Media

An OCSB Social Media Campaign began during the week of April 14. The campaign encouraged families to answer their phones as it could be their child’s teacher calling to make sure the family is ok and to offer electronic devices. 

Letter Campaign

A letter was mailed to identified families the week of April 20, 2020. Posters were placed in parks, Food Bank locations, and key apartment buildings in the city. As well we contacted community organizations and provided a letter written in a variety of languages requesting their assistance.

Traditional Media

CHIN Radio produced a Public Service Announcement broadcast in seven languages. English, Arabic, Mandarine, Korean, Farsi, Russian and Spanish The campaign started on Monday, April 20, for two weeks.

Wellness Visits

We collaborated with Red Cross, Family and Children’s Services, and Ottawa Public Health to participate in family wellness visits. Our Multicultural Liaison Officers, social workers, psychologists and mental health leads also helped spread the message, “The School Board has resources, and are here to help.”

Supporting Students with Special Needs

Staff continue to reach out to students with special needs and offer support and guidance relating to Distance Learning. 

As the situation continues to evolve, we will adapt our services to students, families and schools. This includes SEA Learning Partners supporting students in accessing assistive technology with easy to use manuals such as Welcome to Your New SEA Chromebook.

Special Education resources have been placed on the Board website to help families looking for targeted resources. As well families have been using News2You to help spread happiness in the home. 

Special Education Consultants and Itinerant Resource Teachers will continue to support schools through a responsive-tiered approach to provide personalized support to school communities.

Special Education Professional Learning opportunities are continuing they include:

  • A revised ABA conference
  • Areworked Third Path conference and;
  • PECS workshops

Update on 2019-2020 Drawdown of Unappropriated 

Accumulated Surplus

The Board approved a drawdown from accumulated surplus reserves for $3 million for a one-time investment in resources. To date, approximately 40% of these items have been purchased and received (for example, Chromebooks). Another 40% have or in the process of being ordered. The remaining 20% will be ordered shortly. Staff are working diligently to secure these resources in preparation for the return of students, and we are hopeful there will be no delays with the availability of product or delivery timelines due to Covid-19.

A portion of the $500,000 allocated for School-Based Learning Environments has been repurposed to purchase Chromebooks and internet sticks for students needing IT support during the current Covid-19 closure. The following chart identifies this $400,000 reallocation in funds from Innovative School-Based Learning Environments to Classroom Chromebooks:

  Previous Revised
Musical Instruments for Grades 7-12 $350,000 $350,000
Classroom Chromebooks (K-12) $700,000 $1,100,000
Curriculum Resources – Equity, Indigenous, Religion, Reading Recovery $840,000 $840,000
Innovative – School-Based Learning Environments $500,000 $100,000
Wellness – School-Based Resources, H&S/Mental Health Training, Support Services, Catastrophic Insurance $610,000 $610,000
TOTAL $3,000,000 $3,000,000

Catholic  Education Week 2020

Catholic Education Week takes place from May 3-8. This year we will celebrate things a little differently. Catholic Education Week will be going virtual. While the pandemic prompted the cancellation of many board activities, we are committed to recognizing and celebrating the gift of Catholic Education.

This year’s Catholic Education Week theme is, “Igniting Hope.” The Catholic Education Week Committee, with the assistance of the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association (OCSTA), is providing support and resources to our school communities. We will be celebrating a local live-streamed Catholic Education Mass on May 5 at 10:00 am. As well, OCSTA arranged for a province-wide virtual mass on Wednesday, May 6 also at 10:00 am, which we will be sharing with our schools. 

Catholic Education Week activities include:

  • Daily Prayers shared with the community
  • Live stream of our Catholic Education Week Mass – Tuesday, May 5 at 10:00 a.m.
  • Daily invitation to educators, students and families to offer messages of hope to those in our community 
  • Those messages will be sent to families, educators, front line workers, seniors homes, Shepherds of Good Hope, Mission, etc.
  • The messages could be in the form of artwork, letters, emails or photography 
  • OCSB educators and parents will share their examples of hope using the hashtag #ocsbHope 

The Director of Education Commendation Award will be postponed to a later date so we can celebrate this prestigious award in person. This annual event recognizes the outstanding contributions of Board staff from across the spectrum. Past winners have included Principals, Teachers and Support Staff.

Finance Update COVID-19: School Reimbursements and Fundraising

The Finance Department is diligently working to issue school-based refunds to students and their families who have paid for services or products in advance of the shutdown. 

The current systems, both manual and automated software, were never designed to process mass refunds. For this reason, the first reimbursements will be issued on an emergency or essential family needs basis.

The second phase of repayments will be administered once we have more details regarding the length of the shutdown. Principals and Office Administrators will consult with School Council Chairs to determine the emergency criteria for their school community. We will share more details in the coming days and weeks regarding when these repayments will be processed.

The collaborative efforts of Office Administrators, Principals, CSPA, and PIC Chairs working with the Finance Department are immeasurable. Their assistance ensures refunds will be processed as soon as possible.

Continued Fundraising

School fundraising activities will pause in the short term until more is known about the length of school closures and the restrictions on social distancing. “No contact” type fundraising, for example, “receipt type” commissions programs, can continue. The Board is grateful for the community’s continued generosity. If you are looking to donate we encourage you to support the  Catholic Education Foundation of Ottawa.

Director’s Verbal Update

Schools Closed Until May 31, 2020

Ontario, Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced on Sunday, April, 26,2020, that schools would remain closed until at least May 31, 2020. 

Students Will Still Be Able to Complete School Year

Learning is happening; students are continuing to complete assignments and participate in hands-on activities from cooking, to cleaning, to gardening to creating works of art on their driveways. Educator-led learning is in its 4th week. We are in the 6th week of school closures since the March Break.


Our educators will continue to connect with their students, so their learning moves forward. We are living by the creed of “Do No Harm.” Students’ marks will be based on the grades they had as of March 13, 2020, unless their grades improve as a result of the work they complete during the stay at home order.

Strategic Plan

We are guided by our Strategic Plan when we are at school, online or at home.

Be Community 

I am grateful that our strategic plan lives in the hearts and minds of our students. I witness acts of Be Community every day – via social media. 

Some examples include: 

  • Grade 3 students at St. James continues to maintain their strong partnership with Stonehaven Manor residents. Students have sent letters electronically to the residents since they can no longer participate in the reading buddies program. 
  • St. Gregory students have been sending emails of support and hope to CityView residents.
  • St. Brigid kindergarten students are making a video to share with the residents of the convent next door to the school. Many of the residents are retired nuns. 
  • St. Augustine students designed and sent Easter cards to the residents at The Ravines.  
  • Immaculata students from the “Caring for Others” focus program wrote letters to the residents of St. Patrick’s Home to lift their spirits. 
  • Corpus Christi students have an ongoing partnership with a residence in the Glebe. In the spirit of continuity Kindergarten and grade 5 teachers are planning to reach out to the residents of the home.
  • St. Rita students sent letters to the residents of Stirling Park in hopes of putting a smile on the resident’s faces.

Partnering with University of Ottawa 

The second week of 3D printing headbands for face shields is complete. We delivered over 550 headbands in the past two weeks to our partner Ottawa U.  

Partnering with Ottawa Makes Personal Protective Equipment(PPE)

Ottawa Makes PPE is working closely with CHEO, other Ottawa-area health organizations and the Maker community to provide approved PPE to people on the frontlines.  

“OCSB made” mask clips were given to organizations such as Canadian Blood Services. As well we have provided clips to local nurses at the Queensway Carleton and an Almonte area seniors home. 

Superintendent, Debbie Frendo and her team of volunteers dedicated countless hours to ensuring the production and delivery of these clips.

Chromebook Distribution

We completed the second wave of Chromebook distribution and Internet Sticks to students in need. As well, we continue to partner with Kiwanis Kiwanis Club of Kanata Stittsville and the Kiwanis Club of Bytown, Ottawa, to deliver 14 Chromebooks to families. This program is unique in that the students can keep the devices. 

Equity Plan 

Distribution of school supply kits will take place later this week. The packages will include scissors, paper, markers, and colouring pencils. The goal is to provide students with the tools to do their assignments or create crafts. Our staff continue to reach out to families/students in creative ways to let them know they miss them, and they care.

Be Well 


The number of requests for help continues to come-in in record numbers since schools closed on March 23. We have issued $91,121, representing 329 requests in 6 weeks. Fifty-five of our schools have asked for help. Those calls for assistance came from Orleans to Kanata to Manotick to Barrhaven to Stittsville, to Centre Town, to Westboro and included elementary, secondary, specialized programs like McHugh, OCIP and PLC. 

To date, the Catholic Education Foundation has provided 907 families with $245,835 in funding. If you can donate, please do.

Here are some of the requests we have received recently.

  • A single parent with two school-aged special needs students and a pre-school child requested help to purchase groceries during school closures. Her children frequently access breakfast, lunch and snack programs at school, and they are hungry.
  • A family used grocery money to pay for medicines. We provided a gift card that will help them purchase some groceries. They requested our assistance as they don’t have enough money for both.
  • A family with five children required assistance to pay an outstanding Hydro bill. The father lost his job because of COVID-19, and the mother’s hours have been reduced.
  • One family is struggling with food insecurity and medical issues. Their child, who is in Grade 5, frequently accesses the school breakfast and snack program, and they do not have enough food for three meals a day.

Be Innovative

We see evidence of innovation and authenticity on our social media channels. Educators are encouraged to continue posting at #ocsbAtHome.

It is important to note we are participating in distance learning in a crisis, not e-learning. In recognition of this, our staff will consider a student’s March 13 mark as the minimum mark a student can achieve on their final report card.  

Work completed after this time can be assessed to improve the student’s mark but not to lower the mark. OCSB is adhering to a “do no harm” approach in learning.  

It is not possible to make the same determinations around effort/motivation when educators are not face-to-face with their students. We cannot know the individual circumstances of students, and we need to take all of this into account.  

“Let’s extend grace to our students and ourselves right now. We are trauma schooling. Our classes, our curriculum are not the most important part of anyone’s life right now.”

– Sarah Mulhern Gross

Student Outcomes

When our students look back on these weeks of social isolation and distance learning, what do we want them to remember? We want them to remember that their educators cared about them, their wellbeing, and they were empathetic. 

We want our educators to have engaged students in ways that did not add to the stress of their current lived experience. We want them to know they are still part of their school, class and Board community. We want our students to have felt supported and to continue to be resilient, caring and innovative.

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