As we reach the end of a very different school year, we wanted to take this opportunity to acknowledge how challenging this year has been for many, and to express our deepest appreciation to our community.
To our students, first of all, we have missed you. We and our staff have truly missed being able to connect and learn with you in person. We know that these months have been difficult and you too have missed your teachers, friends and the routine of school. Despite the distance, you continue to impress us with your creativity, innovation and perseverance, and we look forward to welcoming you back to school.
We know that the school closures have affected our elementary and secondary school graduates and that it has been deeply disappointing to have to postpone graduation ceremonies. These are important milestones, and we look forward to celebrating your achievements when we can reschedule them. In the meantime, we still want to show you how proud we are and are inviting the community to help us celebrate our graduates.
We also want to thank our families. We know that this time has been challenging for many families in different ways and we thank you for your patience and support as we shifted the way we delivered learning to over 128,000 students. Please know that we continue to keep the health and well-being of our students and families foremost in our thoughts.
Thank you for sharing your feedback to us through our surveys on how we can best support learning in the fall. We heard from parents and students that you would like to have greater consistency in online learning and increased real-time learning opportunities with teachers. Your feedback will be incorporated into our planning for next school year.
We also want to take this opportunity to thank our staff members for their ongoing professionalism and for working to connect with students and keep them engaged in learning during the school closures.
We are also grateful to our community - to our healthcare and frontline workers who have been working incredibly hard to keep our communities safe, healthy and operating. We are grateful to all of the community organizations who are providing support to students and families during this difficult time, and to all of the many, many ways our communities have been showing support and care to one another. We may have been distancing, but we are not alone and are fortunate to be part of a community that cares.
Family and Student Supports and Summer Learning
We know that each of our students and families experienced this pandemic in very different ways. Throughout the past few months, we have been sharing community, mental health and learning resources on our website at www.yrdsb.ca/covid19 to help families find and access the supports they may need. We will continue to update that information over the summer months, and have included new information about summer programs and learning opportunities.
Return to School
While we are finishing this school year, we know that many of you have questions and concerns about what the return to school will look like. The Ministry of Education has instructed school boards to develop and submit to the Ministry plans for three different scenarios for the return to school - the continuation of at home, online learning; the return to regular school operations; and a modified school day routine based on public health advice that allows for cohorts of students. The government has announced that any return to school in person in the fall would be voluntary and based on parent choice.
We know that many of you have questions and concerns and we will do our best to provide you with as much information as possible. We will continue to prioritize the health and well-being of our students and follow the guidance of public health authorities to put measures in place to protect the health and safety of our students. And we want to assure you that our staff will be well prepared to support our students well-being, mental health and academics in transitioning back to school.
We will continue to communicate with families as decisions are made and information becomes available.
We also want to acknowledge that this has been a particularly difficult time for Black students, families and staff members. We have been working with Black community organizations to share and put together anti-Black racism mental health and crisis supports. Each and every one of our students should have the opportunity to achieve personal excellence and should feel safe and valued in our schools and communities. We know that sadly, some of our students still face barriers to their success and that incidents of anti-Black racism continue to occur in our communities and schools. This is not acceptable, and we will continue to prioritize our work to address anti-Black racism and to create welcoming environments that enable all of our students to succeed.
Indigenous Peoples’ Month
Throughout the month of June, our Board celebrated Indigenous Peoples Month, sharing resources, language and stories of Indigenous excellence in our community. As noted in our message on Indigenous Peoples Day, we will continue working to develop meaningful relationships with community, build our learning and understanding as a system and support Indigenous education and the achievement of Indigenous students. We recognize the importance of centering Indigenous voices in this journey and our role as an education system to ensure that all students understand both the history of Canada’s relationships with Indigenous peoples and the vibrancy of Indigenous cultures and ways of knowing.
We also want to acknowledge that this time last year, we were able to come together in person as a community to celebrate Pride Month and show our support and celebrate the identities of our 2SLGBTQ+ students, families and staff members. Through school events, raising the Pride flag, and participation in the York Region Pride parade and other community events, we were able to show our Pride! This year, our celebrations took place online and included podcasts and video features that elevated student voice and addressed the experiences of 2SLGBTQ+ peoples in education. We remain committed to providing learning environments where all of our students know and feel that they matter and belong.
As we plan for the return to school in September, we encourage you to stay connected. We will continue to update information on our website at www.yrdsb.ca/covid19. You can also follow us on Twitter @YRDSB, Instagram @yrdsb.schools, YouTube at YRDSB Media or check out our podcast Tune In YRDSB for conversations about education in York Region.
We will share more information over the summer months about the return to school, and wish you and your loved ones a healthy, safe and happy summer.
Louise Sirisko, Director of Education and Juanita Nathan, Board Chair