A Christmas message from the Director of Education, Pat Daly.
It has been a very challenging year for everyone, but as Pope Francis reminded us last June, “…in our darkest moments God awaits us and is ready to transform us.” The past nine months have been nothing short of transformational. We made the best of a very difficult situation by working together to create conditions to support our students as best we could, in spite of the extraordinary circumstances.
I want to thank our staff, students and parents for their efforts, understanding and support as we worked closely with Halton Public Health to ensure a safe and healthy return to school. The ongoing collaboration of our staff and families has been instrumental in helping us maintain safe learning environments for our students.
Stopping the spread of COVID-19 is a community effort, and as we head into the break, it continues to be important that we work together to follow public health measures so that we can ensure a safe, healthy and happy learning environment for all students and staff when we return in the new year.
An Important Letter to Families from Dr. Meghani
Dr. Hamidah Meghani, Chief Officer of Health for Halton Region has provided a letter to families. As Dr. Meghani noted in her message, it is critical that we all continue to follow the advice of our public health officials and adhere to the public health measures in our community over the break. By following Public Health advice, we can all enjoy a safe and happy Christmas holiday, and ensure that the return to school is as safe and healthy as possible for everyone.
What to Expect When We Return to School in the New Year
As we prepare to return to school in the new year, it will be extremely important that we continue to follow the health and safety protocols that have been put in place in our schools to keep students and staff healthy and safe. We will continue to reinforce the use of masks and hand hygiene as well as cohorting and physical distancing with students and our staff.
A few important reminders to help keep our schools safe when we return:
- All students, staff, and essential visitors must conduct a daily screening for symptoms of COVID-19 every day before attending school using the COVID-19 school screening tool.
- Any students or staff who do not feel well should not attend school.
- Any students or staff who have been tested for COVID-19 must stay home to self-isolate until the test results are revealed; test results will indicate the next steps.
- Any students or staff who have a member of their household who has tested positive for COVID-19 must stay home and self-isolate.
- Any students or staff who have travelled outside of Canada over the Christmas break are to stay home and self-isolate for 14 days from the date of return. This is in accordance with the federal government’s quarantine order, which imposes a 14-day home quarantine (self-isolation) on travellers regardless whether they have symptoms of COVID-19. See the Government of Canada’s instructions for travellers from outside Canada for more information.
Our schools are scheduled to re-open on Monday, January 4, 2020. However, as we have learned this past year, we need to be prepared for all possibilities. As public health officials continue to monitor the spread of COVID-19 in our community, they may adjust their recommendations and we may see more changes to the measures that have been put in place to keep everyone safe.
Parents, please remind your children to take home all personal belongings and any materials that they may require for remote learning before they leave school for the Christmas break so that we can continue to be ready for all scenarios. In the event we need to move to remote learning in January (or at any time throughout the year), we will be reaching out to families to determine technology needs and make arrangements to provide devices and/or WiFi, as required.
I would also ask that you continue to monitor your emails, as in the event we need to communicate any information regarding the return to school, we will share this information through email, as well as on our school/board websites and through social media.
Mental Health Support and Resources
Like most everything else that we have experienced over the past several months, our Christmas celebrations are going to look and feel different this year in light of the current public health measures in place to help slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community. Christmas is a difficult time for many in any given year. This year, the realities of living in a pandemic and the recent global events around anti-black racism have compounded the difficulties that many in our community are facing.
School Mental Health Ontario have developed a number of resources to support the mental health of students, families and staff during this time. I encourage you to explore the information and tip sheets available on the SMHO website at: https://smho-smso.ca/covid-19/parents-and-families/
And as we look after ourselves and our families, let’s also remember to reach out to friends and neighbours who may be alone and/or struggling at this time.
Additional Information and Resources
- Visit Ontario.ca/covidresponse to learn what public health measures are currently in place in our community. You are encouraged to check this site regularly as these measure could change depending on the most current public health advice.
- Visit the government’s holiday web page for more direct and up-to-date guidance on how individuals and families can plan for a safe holiday season, including suggestions for safer holiday activities for children and families.
While we do not know exactly what the next year will bring, we can take comfort in knowing that we are a part of a vibrant Catholic learning community. We have a very comprehensive plan in place in each of our schools that was developed in consultation with Halton Region Public Health, and working together, we will continue doing everything we can to keep our school communities healthy and safe for all.
As we journey through the last days of Advent, and prepare to welcome Christ into our lives and homes, I wish our staff, students and parents a blessed Christmas break. For those who may be celebrating another faith tradition, I wish you the peace and joy that this time of year brings. I continue to hold all of our students, families and staff in my thoughts and prayers. May God keep you safe and healthy as we welcome in a new year, our hearts filled with hope, peace, joy and love.
Director of Education