April 17th, 2020
Today marks eight days (two short weeks) of distance learning in the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) and four weeks since our students were scheduled to return to school after March break.
Our focus on “Supporting Mind, Heart, Body” continues, as we provide learning opportunities that address the whole child – not just their academic needs. Putting our students first and ensuring that each and every student has an opportunity to learn and be well continues to be at the heart of our Distance Learning Plan. Our push to support student learning during this time cannot be at the expense of student and family well-being.
We have also been clear that distance learning cannot duplicate the classroom experience – it depends on the connections we can make by phone, email, mailed packages, or other tools that teachers and parents have agreed to. Our educators will continue to reach out to students to support their learning in any way they can. There is not a “one size fits all” approach. Our goal is to work in partnership with students and their families to support students to actively engage in their learning while supporting their well-being – we are in this together!
What we did this week (April 13 – 17):
- WRDSB staff continued to provide new at-home learning activities on WRDSB@Home as a way to supplement the learning activities provided by your child’s teacher
- School staff members and educators collaborated to plan for individual student needs and to provide them meaningful learning activities
- Your child’s educators continued to connect with their students in Distance Learning, assigning learning activities and supports and reinforcing safe internet practices and digital citizenship
- Continued to provide professional development opportunities for our staff
- We proudly provided over 3200 devices to students
- We supported our local health providers by donating 35,000 gloves and roughly 150 N95 masks to the Cambridge Memorial Hospital
- The Waterloo Education Foundation Inc. (WEFI) donated $50,000 to support Nutrition For Learning in their work addressing food insecurity in Waterloo Region
What you can expect next week (April 20 – 24):
- Teachers will continue to introduce curriculum through a variety of learning activities (within the target number of hours) and provide feedback to students and families as appropriate
- Teachers and other educational staff will continue to communicate with every student to see how they are doing with distance learning and the activities assigned. This communication will be in the form of contact at least once during the week via phone, email or Google Classroom, VLE/D2L.
- Staff will respond to any questions or concerns of students or their families regarding distance learning (For more information about how to contact your school please refer to our website.)
As we have worked to deliver on distance learning over the past two weeks, we understand there are a variety of needs and opinions that we must address. To do this, we remain grounded in our belief that student-educator-family relationships will be critical to the success and well-being of our students. As such, we are guided by the following principles:
- Distance learning must be equitable, differentiated and accessible
- Distance learning materials and approaches must be simple to use and easily implemented by students, staff, and families
- Distance learning must be reflective of the needs of our students, staff and families
- Distance learning must be developed collaboratively with educators and administrators and informed by students and families
- Distance learning must be focused on and prioritize key concepts and skills with reasonable expectations
Premier Doug Ford recently announced that schools will remain closed beyond May 4. Like you we are anxious to hear when schools will reopen. Today’s press conference did not provide an indication of when this will happen, but the Premier and the Minister of Education reassured Ontarians that “safety and science” will inform the decision. As always, we will be sure to update our students, families and staff as soon as possible.
This week we had to make the difficult decision to cancel all year-end school events, trips and graduations and we know that this is disappointing for many of our students, their families and certainly our staff. As we reflect on this time of school closures and all that our schools, community, province, country and our world has been managing, we want to extend a huge thank you to our students and families for your feedback, patience and support.
Have a question or suggestion?
Families are encouraged to contact school staff with any questions or concerns during the closure. You can find a Staff List on your school’s website that provides staff email addresses or you may call the school and leave a voicemail for staff via their personal extensions. For more information about how to contact your school please refer to our website.
We continue to be committed to communicating with our students and families in a timely fashion. Other important updates can be found below:
- Important Updates About Assessment and Report Cards
- How do I contact my child’s teacher/school?
- Will the closure impact mid-term marks?
- More Frequently Asked Questions
What about live video classroom environments?
We’ve had a number of families who have reached out and requested a live video classroom environment to support them and their child’s learning. We appreciate that this approach to distance learning is something our families may be looking for, however, we need to ensure that our staff are appropriately prepared and supported in teaching and interacting with students in this way.
Concerns regarding safety and privacy for both students and staff remain, and we are in the process of developing clear guidelines and protocols that protect the safety and privacy of all involved. We will review a variety of options and best practices, consult with our education stakeholders, and are committed to finalizing our live video classroom plan by the end of next week. More information on this will be coming soon.
We all miss our students, our classrooms and the traditions that made every day special. To help us recapture some of this magic, the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony came together virtually to create a recording of O Canada. Please feel free to use this at home with your child as we continue distance learning.
As we look to the uncertain days ahead we understand that our students and families are facing many challenges. We want our students and families to know we will continue to provide learning opportunities and we will continue to connect. We care about our students – we are here for them, we care deeply about you and your well-being, and we will continue to support you with distance learning – together – for each and every student.
Stay safe, stay connected, and stay well.