Message from The Chair : Thanking our entire team on the first anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic

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Montreal - Tuesday, March 9, 2021

On Thursday, March 11 the English Montreal School Board marks the National Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of COVID-19. 

These past 12 months have been difficult and heartbreaking for people around the world. I am so proud of how our entire team at the EMSB has risen to the occasion and faced this monumental challenge head on.

Last year at this time, with no warning, we had to shut down the entire system and pivot to online learning. Let’s be fair – nobody had a playbook on how to deal with a pandemic of this scale at that time. In a matter of weeks, our Educational Services Department had a virtual learning system in place. By spring we were able to open schools for special needs services and at the adult level, vocational centres.

When it became clear that classes would resume in person for the start of the 2020-21 academic year our administration made sure that all of the necessary safety measures were in place. For students who could not return to class due to medical conditions for themselves or a family member, we launched a Virtual School with a principal, vice-principal and a full complement of staff at a cost of $5 million. We also boosted our Home Schooling Division and received a significant increase in registration. Our own Shadd Health and Business Centre in NDG opened up new classes last June for groups of students for a special accelerated Institutional and Home Care Assistance Program, entitled Support for Assistive Care in Long-Term Care Centres, The students soon after began working as orderlies, also known as PABs (préposé aux bénéficiaires).

After the Quebec Court of Appeal granted school boards a stay related to Bill 40, which would have seen entities like the EMSB transformed into service centres, a newly elected Council of Commissioners assumed office in November. We have followed all of the Quebec government protocols. On our very own, one of the first actions we took was to purchase roughly 800 air purifiers in buildings where mechanical ventilation systems are not in place at a cost of $1.4 million.  It should be noted that the  infection rate for all staff and students at our board is at about 1.4 percent, probably among the lowest in the province.

The world has faced a crisis the likes of which we have never seen before. We owe a debt of gratitude to all frontline workers, of which I count our staff in schools and centres.

This is why on March 11  flags at all of our schools and centres were lowered to half-mast from dawn to dusk.  

We will all come out of this stronger than ever before as long as we continue to work together!

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