October 8th, 2020

Dear Waterloo Catholic Community –

It has been exactly one month since we made our first tentative steps back to full learning at Waterloo Catholic.  Today, as we stand on the cusp of the Thanksgiving Weekend, I must reflect that despite some of the obvious challenges, we have much for which we can be grateful.  While it is most certainly difficult to contemplate a Thanksgiving table that might not be as populated as we might like it to be and while we may share concern about the presence of COVID-19 in our lives, it has been a sincere joy to welcome our students back to learning.

This next week the Waterloo Catholic community pastoral plan makes the transition from Called to Belong to our second year theme of Gathered to Become.  So, while this past year we could reflect that we were (and are) indeed a connected community grounded in hope and our shared faith, this year we celebrate the transformation that happens when we gather around the table of our Lord.  We celebrate the gift and power of the Eucharist.  What a well-timed reminder that in our schools, our staff and students are called as community and transformed in their learning and by their faith journey.  As we gather around our Thanksgiving tables, we offer gratitude that even in small numbers, we share God’s love, the opportunity to access education, and the gift of sharing the hope provided by Christ.

We are one month into our new school year and as I have visited some of our schools I have seen the resilience of our students, their appreciation in being able to learn with their teachers and their friends again, and I have witnessed staff who seem genuinely pleased to be back in their schools, connecting with one another, their vocation and their students.  We feel so blessed that to date our schools have remained fully safe places to be.  We have had only 2 early cases of COVID across all of our schools, over this full month, and both cases are now resolved.  We have had no cases of school transmission and indeed across the province, those cases are very few and far between.  Our students are benefitting socially and emotionally by being back together and by experiencing school as a young person is intended to experience school.  In community.

We are so proud of the many accomplishments of our system.  This is a most timely occasion to offer thanks to our staff for all they have done to adapt to our new circumstances, for their commitment, be it in our face-to-face school or in our virtual school, St Isidore.  Central and school-based staff alike went the extra mile to ensure we were ready and to provide their very best for our students.  For that we truly do thank them.  We did have some families who, when given the choice a second time, did choose to move to virtual learning.  As a result, we are preparing to move some teachers from our conventional classrooms to our virtual school.  This has caused some re-organization at the school level and the move will be effective Tuesday, October 13th.  We apologize for this inconvenience.  We realize this is not ideal, but we have neither the staff nor the money to simply add additional teachers to St Isidore.  We sincerely appreciate your understanding in this matter.

We are living and learning in unique times.  Above all else, the health and safety of our staff and students remains our number one priority.  As the province, public health and provincial health authorities have updated their guidance to us, we too have updated our guidance to you.  We realize that sometimes there is a great deal to process.  For our students there has been a new daily self-assessment tool released in the past week.  The tool allows for 2 levels of screening, and narrows down those children who should be sent for testing versus those who should simply stay home until symptoms have resolved.   Please remember that all students (or parents on their behalf) should complete this updated self-screening tool every day:  COVID-19 school and child care screening tool and a reminder that no staff should come to school without completing the adult self-assessment:  https://covid19checkup.ca/  The process of self screening each day is a vital step in ensuring the continued safety of all our schools, so sincere thanks to all for remaining faithful to this and to all our required protocols.

We are so very happy to be back to learning in our schools.  We are so fortunate to have the sure knowledge that we are called together as a family in Christ, and in the Eucharist we are gathered as community to be become so much more than we are as individuals.  Let’s continue to be grounded in the faith, hope and love of Christ for surely that will be our strength in times of adversity.

We sincerely wish every member of our Waterloo Catholic family a restorative and healthy Thanksgiving weekend, rich in the blessings and bounty of this beautiful season.   Please reach out to us if you need help or guidance, and remain confident that we are here to support you, as we walk together as a hope-filled community.  #WCDSBTogether  #WeGotThis

Sincerely,

Loretta Notten

Director of Education