Director General's Report to Council
for December 2021

by Cindy Finn, Director General, LBPSB

The Lester B. Pearson School Board recently presented our annual report and shared it with the community and the Ministry of Education. The 2020-21 school year was an extraordinary one. Yes, it was out of the ordinary because of COVID-19 but it was also extraordinary because of all that we achieved despite COVID-19. We saw an increase in our graduation rates, we paid deliberate attention to health and wellness for students and staff, and we strengthened our efforts to keep students engaged.
Teaching and learning continued during very difficult conditions – bubbles, masks in class, secondary students alternating their presence at school, class closures due to outbreaks, and no student extracurricular activities were just some of the issues with which we had to contend. Despite the challenges, our students also told us via the OURSCHOOL survey just how important it was to be back in school and how hard they felt their teachers were working to help them learn and stay safe.
Our response to COVID-19 also involved developing innovative solutions. We are very proud of our online academy which serviced over 700 students from K through 11 in a totally virtual environment. We had a very short turnaround time in which to organize services and train teachers. Across the system, we also saw teachers make more use of outdoor education spaces.
Equity, diversity, and inclusivity (EDI) was also a central focus for our community last year. While the EDI Task Force members were diligently meeting and preparing its extensive final report, we did not wait to begin working with administration, staff and students to better understand privilege, bias, and equity issues and to start tackling discrimination and marginalization in our system.
Of course, the challenges of last school year extend into the current one. COVID-19 remains a primary preoccupation because the arrival of the omicron variant is a lesson that the pandemic is not yet over. Late last week we began distributing rapid tests to elementary students, and our final kits were distributed today. We know that the coming winter months and the emergence of this new variant will bring additional stressors, but we are preparing as best we can.
Classes across the system ended suddenly on December 20th as a result of a governmental degree. This was an abrupt end to a very busy fall semester and winter is now upon us. In person classes are set to resume on January 10th, but we will be engaging virtually with students upon our return to school on January 5th, 2022. We are preparing for various scenarios given the uncertainty we are facing with the pandemic.
Between now and then, I hope everyone takes a well-deserved break. Please plan time for you and your loved ones to set aside the hustle and bustle of daily life and slow down in order to appreciate the beauty and goodness that surround us. And once filled with that appreciation and awe, please remember to pass that along. Kindness costs nothing but pays dividends.
This is a time of year when we typically wish each other joy, peace and prosperity. This year, more than ever, we need to spread joy and cheer, help our neighbours and those we meet, and support each other through these difficult times.
I want to wish everyone a happy and healthy winter break. For those of you celebrating Christmas or Kwanzaa, I also wish you the happiest of holidays. May better things await us all in 2022.