OECTA Responds to COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken over our lives so quickly it can be difficult to comprehend just how much has changed. While we are mourning those who have lost their lives, we are also taking extraordinary measures to prevent the virus from spreading. “Social distancing” and “flattening the curve” have become common parlance seemingly overnight, and we are all doing our best to adjust to new ways of living and working. However, although much has changed, Catholic remain as committed as ever to serving our communities.
What is OECTA doing?
OECTA is committed to providing a safe and healthy environment for all of our members, employees, and anyone we interact with in a public setting. To that end, the Association has taken a number of measures based on the advice of public health authorities and/or the direction of the government.
The Provincial Office building is closed, and staff are working remotely. We have cancelled all in-person meetings. Where possible, Association business has been moved to online platforms – including the Annual General Meeting and the information meetings for the ratification of the agreement on central terms. Non-essential travel for other Association business has been cancelled until further notice.
To help Catholic teachers adjust to the emergency distance learning program, staff in the OECTA Professional Development department have created a series of training sessions. For example, the new Distance Learning series covers topics such as Google Classrooms and Brightspace, as well as communicating with parents and creating a sense of well-being and belonging in a virtual classroom.
The Association understands that the COVID-19 crisis is having severe impact on our economy and society. While the government has put some emergency measures in place, many Ontarians are losing work, and the hardships faced every day by people with low incomes are being magnified. In response, the OECTA Provincial Executive has approved a donation of $20,000 to Feed Ontario, the umbrella group for emergency food programs across the province.
We also know that the isolation measures put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have led to increased risk of domestic violence and child abuse. And the resources that survivors usually rely on, like extended family, child care and schools, religious groups, and other community organizations, may no longer be available. To help ensure survivors have safe places to turn, OECTA has donated $20,000 to the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses.
The Association will continue following the advice and direction of public authorities, and making decisions in the interests of public health, while remaining actively engaged in navigating this crisis.
Advocating for teachers, students, and families
Although the school closures and the emergency distance learning program have emerged quickly, the Association has been doing whatever possible to ensure Catholic teachers’ needs and perspectives are heard. To this end, Provincial Office staff are involved in formal work groups that provide the Association’s input to the Ministry of Education, and local OECTA units are in regular contact with school boards.
Throughout this process, the Association has been stressing the need for consistency. While we recognize that this new situation requires some creative thinking, we will continue to encourage common practices both across and within school boards, to help all students and families make the most of this difficult situation.
Below are some helpful resources related to COVID-19.