Speed of Transition – How Fort McMurray Catholic Schools showcased perseverance in 2020
On March 12, 2020, staff and students of the Fort McMurray Catholic School Division left school at the end of the day, mostly like any other day. At this time, there were discussions about COVID-19, and the new protocols introduced throughout the province.
But one thing students did not know is that March 12 would be their last day of in-class instruction for many months. Because, on the afternoon of March 15, the school year pivoted, and off-site instructions became the new normal in Alberta.
Fort McMurray Catholic Schools worked as actively as possible to reinvent the traditional classroom environment with incredible speed. Teachers, Educational Assistants, School and Division-based staff members worked together, while physically apart, to reinvent student instruction.
“The speed of the transition was awe-inspiring,” said Fort McMurray Catholic Schools Board Chair Cathie Langmead. “Our board is incredibly proud of how quickly our staff transitioned to online teaching and provided real learning opportunities for students during the last four months of school.”
Langmead understood the teacher’s challenges from the parent perspective and was impressed by how they put together the curriculums for students.
“As a parent, I was impressed that, within a week of the Minister of Education’s announcement to cancel all in-class learning, my children were back at the books. Our children’s success could not have been possible without the support of all who work in the Division to ensure that curriculum outcomes could be met and that students and their families were supported, both from an educational and mental health perspective. It does not seem enough to say thank you as they have shown us, yet again, what it means to serve others,” she said.
Fort McMurray Catholic Schools Superintendent George McGuigan said he is immensely proud of the transition to off-site learning.
“We are a nimble organization and we have the ability to switch gears when the need arises. A huge debt of gratitude to our staff who see their role as a vocation to serve others. When we experienced the flood in April, many staff and students were out helping those in need. It is heartwarming to see our youth step up. It is one of our core values that we instill in them; to serve others in need.”
Father Beauregard Principal Jason Campbell said it was an excellent transition considering all the variables.
“I was extremely proud of how our entire team at Father Beau pivoted to off-site learning. Everyone was so passionate and dedicated and driven to make sure we were able to meet the needs of our students and families. It was amazing to see,” he said.
“And, this didn’t just happen at Beau. This was the case across our Division. My two sons attend two of our other schools, and I can attest to the fact that the quality of the pivot and the overall experience was the same. Our staff across Fort McMurray Catholic Schools are exceptional.”
McGuigan adds many found ways to help others in these ever-changing times.
“How about the efforts of our Father Mercredi High School students under the guidance of teacher extraordinaire Tom McIsaac? They engineered clips for the backs of masks for our frontline hospital staff and first responders,” he said.
“Despite all the challenges COVID-19 and the flood, we were still able to organize and carry out meaningful graduation ceremonies for our students. This is a crucial milestone in their lives. The ceremonies were personal and well-received by families. We are here to serve, just as Jesus taught us.”
Langmead said witnessing the assistance Fort McMurray Catholic Schools students and staff have provided in our community has been magnificent.
“Many of our teachers and students had to deal with flooded homes and displacement in addition to COVID-19. The resiliency of our community never fails to impress us and remind us of the importance of being there for each other, and whenever possible to help those in need,” Langmead shared.
“Many of our staff, board members, and families have donated their time over the last several months: helping in flood affected homes, assisting at the food bank, and providing supplies and supports to those in need are just a few examples. These are examples of our Catholic schools’ core values in action and we are blessed to be on the board of such an exemplary school division.”
Langmead said wrapping up the 2019/2020 school year was a monumental effort but very much needed for families and staff.
“While it was heartbreaking to know that the school year would not end the way we had envisioned, our bucket was filled with every positive step forward. Our Board was continually heartened to see the innovative ways that staff, students and families reached out to one another throughout the final months of school. These efforts, big and small, are a reminder that especially during times of darkness, our ability to love one another and have faith in God’s compassion is a gift,” he said.
Now, as we focus on the start-up of the 2020/2021 school year, we look to continue leading with compassion and grace. We ask for your grace, patience, and partnership. As we are physically apart, we must stay socially connected.
For the latest information on the Fort McMurray Catholic School Division, please visit our website at www.fmcsd.ab.ca, search for the Fort McMurray Catholic Division on Facebook, follow us on Twitter (@FMCSD), or find us on Instagram @fortmcmurraycatholicschools.
The Fort McMurray Catholic School Divisions meet with new teachers before the first days of school in August 2020 and signage displayed at St. Kateri Catholic School for the launch of the new 2020-2021 school year. Supplied photos