The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to change and alter events around the region, but it’s also created a unique opportunity for staff, leadership and students with the Kenora Catholic District School Board.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Grade 6 students transitioning into St. Thomas Aquinas and Grade 8 students transitioning from elementary to secondary school courses weren’t able to take part in the usual tours and activities at the high school, which aim to help students feel more comfortable in their new environments ahead of the upcoming school year.

In their place, educators got together and have worked to create a number of transitional supports and activities for students virtually, through Google Classroom. A website is also being created where these documents can remain for any students in the future looking for more information.

Grade 7 French Immersion Teacher Jeff Sachowski lead the project, explaining the living document allowed staff to post weekly videos which included tours of the school and introductions to teachers, challenges for students with prizes, questions and answers and much more.

“One that came up quite often is ‘how does everyone at TA remember how to get around? It’s a huge school’. A lot of kids had that concern,” shared Sachowski. “They can feel intimidated. Especially this year, they can’t physically see the school from the inside.”

Upcoming events for transitioning students include gym activities, rock painting, beading work, technology and science workshops and a Saints of 2021 party. Staff are also hosting after-hours tours for students who want an in-person tour of the facility, with safety measures in place.

“Our teachers have done a great job transferring all of these activities to a virtual setting, and coming up with ideas that are engaging and continue to get responses from all of our Grade 6 future Saints. It’s been exciting for us to see them continue to be engaged in a situation like this,” said TA’s new Principal Kylie Hughes, during a virtual board meeting on March 23.

Staff also held a virtual meet and greet with Grade 6 students and their families in early February. Grade 7 and 8 Guidance Lead Katie Jackson later led a Grade 8 parent information night virtually, as she helps students pick their courses in high school.

“As much as we’ve had to adapt to meeting our Grade 6 students, they are so wonderful and you can feel the excitement from them,” said Jackson. “It’s been amazing to go on this journey with them, and we’ll keep counting down until they’re our Saints! We can’t wait!”

Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms or who has been in contact with a positive case of the virus is asked to immediately self-isolate, get tested and remain in isolation until your test results are known.

Students are asked to continue taking Ontario’s self-screening tool daily before attending class. Everyone in your household must isolate if anyone has COVID-19 symptoms or they are awaiting test results after experiencing symptoms.