Challenges of COVID-19 focus of Catholic Division Annual Report

The Prince Albert Catholic School Division board of education met at Ecole St. Anne School gymnasium on Monday night./Michael Oleksyn

The effects and challenges of COVID-19 were the primary focus as the Prince Albert Catholic School Division board of education reviewed their annual report on Monday.

Director of Education Lorel Trumier and Chief Financial Officer Greg McEwen walked the board through some highlights of the report during their regular meeting at Ecole St. Anne School gymnasium, but kept returning to COVID-19.

“I think the biggest element there—unfortunately we keep saying it as we dealt with it last night and we continue to deal with it—is the disruption because of the complex and rapidly evolving extenuating circumstances of COVID-19,” Trumier said.

Fewer student progress results are available compared to previous years because several end-of-year data collections were interrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Trumier said the division had high hopes in September 2019 to meet their goals in student achievement. That’s been difficult under the circumstances.

“To have that disruption from March to June, quite frankly, took the wind out of our sails for a while there … and we had to come to the reality of that. I think the annual report reflects some positivity and some hope because we were, and we have been, on track to reach that 2020 graduation goal,” she explained. “Overall we still deem 2019-2020 to be a success.”

Trumier said student engagement prior to the COVID-19 pandemic disruption was positive. While it did create challenges, some of that positivity did continue.

“I think that coming out of 2019-2020 and into a COVID year there is certainly a continued focus to improve our achievement, not only to sustain it, but to try to improve it as we go through,” Trumier said. “(It’s) increasingly difficult to do in times like this because we are not able to do the same things we have always done.”

Looking back on the time since March Trumier applauds the efforts of teachers. She said they’ve stepped up to the challenge and become learners too.

“They really are trying to make everything work for their students and look at new strategies they have never used,” she explained. “It’s hopeful. We are continuing to be hopeful in times of COVID.”

One example of adaptions made during the pandemic were the changes to Orange Shirt Day. In 2019, Lieutenant Governor Russell Merasty was in Prince Albert for the day and things changed this year. Instead, the division had teachers and students hold a virtual event.

“To think that this year we just couldn’t hold the same kind of event but yet we still found a way to make Orange Shirt Day important and to educate our children about it,” Trumier said.

Other events such as celebrations, liturgies and other regular items were also held virtually as the division adapted with the times.

The St. Francis School shut down in Sept. 2019 was another significant issue. The division closed the school due to flooding, which left mud and water scattered throughout the building. Students held gym classes outside while workers repaired the schools electrical and communication system.

Trumier said that event highlighted the work of division staff, and showed how much they care for families.

“I think whatever we do in our school division, it may not be perfect every day, but we are trying to get better every day and trying to make this work for our students,” she said.

“I’m proud of our families and our children and our staff how well they work together to make things be good for our children and I think that’s the most important piece.”

There used to be a Meeting of Electors each year so stakeholders could review the report but that has been removed from the Education Act. The Annual Report is available to review at the Catholic Division’s website.

Each year school divisions are required to submit annual reports to the Ministry of Education for tabling in the Saskatchewan Legislature.

The report presents an overview division’s  activities and results for the fiscal year Sept. 1, 2019,to Aug. 31, 2020.

In addition to detailing the school division’s activities and performance, the report outlines how the division is implementing their strategic plan, provides a report from management endorsing the financial overview and audited financial statements and includes appendices for other information.