As we are a few days away from the summer break, which will be welcomed by everyone in Quebec, we wanted to underline the immense work done during this past school year, which is coming to an end. Indeed, COVID-19 has forced our system to adapt and this, in a spectacular way.

Quickly, and during the first famous “2 weeks of vacation”, our school teams got to work in order to reach the most vulnerable students and to prepare for an eventual extension of the confinement. When this extension was indeed confirmed, the school teams were ready and they quickly put into place support for students. We cannot underline enough, the devotion, the adaptability, and the creativity required so that this tour de force could be made possible. Between personal circumstances tied to the pandemic and different degrees of aptitudes when it comes to new technologies, not everyone was at the same level to quickly take this necessary turn. We wish, however, to salute everyone’s commitment towards this rapid transition.

We wish to salute the various teams from central services, who work behind the scenes, which supported this unprecedented turn towards teaching but also in telework, especially in a context, where, with very tight deadlines, the directives were in constant evolution in light of the pandemic. Thanks to a group of employees from our school board who step to the plate, our Educational Services team organized, literally in a few hours, emergency daycare services in order to support essential workers. Educational Services also developed an Internet website in order to provide students and parents with stimulating activities during the pandemic. This expertise was put to use in supporting the Education Ministry in the elaboration of the pedagogical kits. Finally, let us underline all of the training developed and deployed so that our teachers be able to continue their pedagogical support remotely.

Conscious of the fact that some vulnerable students needed more personalized support, our Complementary Services developed an offer of service for them as well as a dedicated section on our BrainBoost website. By phone, by email, or by videoconference, our consultants and professionals made a difference, in a personalized way, for many students and their families.

With the creativity and the spirit of innovation which characterizes it, the ACCESS team quickly redeployed its offer of service in order to accommodate our adult students who were in a hurry to move on to the next phase of their life while dealing with a pandemic which, often, impacted them as parents as well. We would like to take this opportunity to salute ACCESS’s important contribution to the effort that was asked by the Health Sector. Our teachers as well as our students met this challenge when asked to help out in the CHSLD. The ACCESS team was also active in helping the government in training more attendants via new AEP (Certificate of Professional Studies) which was put into place in a matter of days. Bravo!

The school teams, our Material Resources, and our Finance Department put into place the directives from Santé publique to make our schools and centers safe for our students. The personal protection equipment “PPE”, the cleaning products, etc., were ordered and delivered to our schools. Additional hygiene measures were put into place. Our Human Resources Department, in addition to managing unprecedented work conditions, analyzed and did the follow-up for hundreds of requests for exemptions so that our services could continue to be offered while respecting everyone’s circumstances.

While in the end, the majority of schools and centres remained closed during the pandemic, we have to mention the work done by school teams in order to be ready for the return of the students, for the distribution of personal effects left behind in schools and for underlining the success of the students graduating in all of our schools. We also have to mention the work done by our school in Sorel, namely Harold Sheppard School, which is not located in a hot zone, and which showed led the way to a return to school, in person. Their efforts were appreciated not only by the school’s community itself but also by the Riverside community at large. Thanks to the Harold Sheppard School’s team!

Thanks also to our Transportation Department for all of the back-to-school scenarios. The team worked, and are still working, under pressure with strict rules to organize various plans for the transportation of students, sometimes with impossible deadlines.

At the beginning of the school year, if we had told us that we would switch, within a few weeks (days), to distance teaching and running our operations remotely, many would have said that it would be impossible. Thankfully, that was not the case for our Technology team. Within a few days, they literally put into place a fundamental way of offering our services so that we could offer them remotely, all the while, without any interruptions in our operations. A staff member did not have computers? No problem! A student had no Internet connection? No problem for our Technology team. They have more solutions than there are problems!

Communications-wise, parents, and staff were kept informed, quickly, of new developments (and they were numerous). Our Communications Agent and the Director General’s team added many hours to their already busy schedule in order to keep everyone informed, almost in real-time.

Also, we cannot forget the priceless help of our main partners. The Education Ministry which, while always keeping the students’ and staff’s interest in mind, had to coordinate with their colleagues at Santé publique and in other ministries. Our Union partners were exceptional in a context requiring flexibility and adaptability. We also want to mention the Council of Commissioners, who exercised its role as overseer and this with thoroughness, in order to ensure the health and safety of the students and staff and to respect everyone’s rights. The Parents’ Committee mobilized itself in order to ask the right questions from all decisional levels during this period filled with challenges. The Quebec English School Board Association (QESBA) for their leadership at the provincial level. The parents who have shown flexibility, understanding and cooperation while they were helping their children live through these major changes in their lives. In closing, our students who have learned how to adapt, overnight, to this new reality. We are proud of them and are eager to see them in September!

There is still lots of work awaiting us in the coming weeks but we are confident that our incredible school board will be able to meet the challenges that it will encounter with the same energy, creativity, commitment, and flexibility, which has characterized it over the last few months. In the meantime, we wish all of you an excellent summer!

Dan Lamoureux, Chairman
Sylvain Racette, Director General