Well, that’s the first month of 2018 official in the record books – and what a month it was! ICYMI, be sure to check out our In the News section of this website (the tab directly to the right of this one), and our Good News blog, which is loaded with great news about students from across Niagara Catholic. We picked up an impressive number of new followers on our social media sites last month – helped along by the snow on January 30 and Bell Let’s Talk Day on January 31 – but we’re determined to keep those new followers active and engaged and to continue to grow our base of followers. If you haven’t joined us on social media, visit us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and if you like what we’re doing on there, be sure to tell others to join the conversation to get news and updates from across our system.
As always, be sure to check our social media channels and this website for information about bus delays, cancellations or school closures as we work our way through Winter 2018. Hopefully the worst of it is behind us, but the only thing you can predict about the weather when you are between two Great Lakes is that it will be unpredictable. Ensure your child(ren) are dressed to go outside most days, with warm and waterproof clothing, especially jackets, snowpants, boots and gloves/mittens, as well as a hat and scarf to protect them against the wind and cold. And since water finds a way to find its way through waterproof gear, especially on kiddos, have a backup bag of clothing at the school, just in case someone gets soggy. Niagara Catholic follows Niagara Region Public Health’s initiative on Extreme Cold Alerts. Students are kept inside when an Extreme Cold Alert is in place, but please keep in mind principals have discretion to keep students inside based on the conditions at their school, even when an alert is not in effect. If you have questions about the decision to keep students indoors in the winter, please ask the principal.
Could it be the flu? This year’s flu is especially nasty. Since flu season began, there have been 17 flu outbreaks across the Region, with five still in effect as of February 1. If your child has flu-like symptoms or a confirmed case of the flu, please keep them at home until they are flu-free. it’s not too late to get a flu shot. Click here for a list of flu shot clinics in Niagara.
Aaaand, speaking of shots, many families across Niagara have received notices of suspension from school under the Immunization of School Pupils Act. If you received a notice from Niagara Region Public Health regarding your child’s immunization record, and believe they have current vaccinations, please check with your doctor and Public Health to clear up any discrepancy. If your child requires updated immunizations, either visit your family doctor or one of the General Immunization Clinics hosted by Niagara Region Public Health. A list of clinic dates, times and locations is here.
And now, on to February’s events! The shortest month of the year is one of the busiest across Niagara Catholic! We have lots of things going on, so be sure to check your child’s school calendar for a list of events and activities taking place in their schools.
February 1 is the final day of Semester 1 exams in our Catholic secondary schools. February 2 is a secondary P.A. Day, and Semester Two begins on Monday, February 5.
Niagara Catholic student artwork is available for auction at Seaway Mall February 1-7. Giving from the HeART is a fundraiser for the United Way. Stop by, check out the art, and place your bid to support programs and services in the community.
Niagara Catholic will host a special event for students to learn more about 21st century careers on February 6. The Pathways Speaker Series: Truths Revealed, held in partnership with Brock University, Niagara College and the Niagara Workforce Planning Board, will provide valuable information to students and their parents about the way traditional careers in the trades have evolved over the years, and about new and emerging careers for students to explore. This is a free event at Club Roma in St. Catharines, beginning at 6:30 p.m. It’s ideally suited for students in Grades 6-10, however any interested students outside of that age range or their parents are encouraged and welcome to attend. No need to pre-register, just come by to learn more.
Kids Helping Kids Week begins on February 11, a week when elementary students from across Niagara Catholic participate in a number of fun activities to raise money for the Niagara Children’s Centre. This year will be the 20th year for Kids Helping Kids. Last year’s event raised $30,770 for programs and services at the Centre.
We will also begin our Lenten journey during that week. February 13 is Shrove Tuesday, the final day to enjoy treats (especially ones with fat in it, which explains the term Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday in French). This year, Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine’s Day. As Ash Wednesday is a day reserved for penance and repentance and is the official beginning of Lent, please note that our schools will hold Valentine’s Day events on February 13 instead. The distribution of ashes will take place in schools and at parishes on February 14. Learn more about Ash Wednesday and Lent here.
Heading into the Family Day long weekend, remember that both elementary and secondary school students will get an extra long weekend, as February 16 is a Professional Activity Day. All schools and sites are closed on Monday, February 19 for Family Day.
We will conclude February with our Winter/Spring Kindergarten Open House and Registration Day on February 28, from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. If you haven’t already registered your child for September 2018 at one of our Catholic elementary schools, be sure to attend the Open House at your neighbourhood Catholic elementary school. If you know someone with a child who will turn four in 2018, invite them to bring their child to the open house to discover the joy and wonder of a Catholic education. Online registration is also available through the slide on the front page of this website.
To find out more about the events and activities happening in your child’s school, be sure to check their monthly newsletter or calendar.
The mission of the Diocese of St. Catharines is founded in the mission of Jesus Christ. In the Gospel of St. John, Jesus states that He came down from heaven, "not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me." (Jn6:38) Jesus' mission is doing the will of his Father. This is the will of the Father, "that all who see the Son and believe in him will have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day". (Jn 6:40)
The Diocese of St. Catharines' mission is rooted in doing the Father's will by proclaiming His son to the world so that all can know, love and serve Him. This mission is lived out on a daily basis in our parishes, schools and Catholic institutions. We find clergy, religious and laity committed to proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ by witnessing to His truth, justice, love and mercy. St. Catharines Diocese is where faith lives.
February 13, 2018
Policies Recommended to the Board
Trustees reviewed five policies during the February 13 Committee of the Whole Meeting, and recommended they be sent to the Board for approval.
The Records and Information Policy (600.2), Niagara Catholic Education Award of Distinction Policy (100.7), Assignment of Principals and Vice-Principals Policy (202.1), Employee Attendance During Inclement Weather & Workplace Closure Policy (201.9) and Nutrition Policy (302.7) will be reviewed by the Board February 27.
Niagara Catholic Recognizes Indigenous Land
Journey Retreat/Our Lady of Grace Spiritual Centre “Jewel in the Crown” of Catholic Education in Niagara
Outdoor spiritual education has a long history at Niagara Catholic, dating back nearly four decades to when the Spiritual Catholic Outdoor Education Program (SCOEP) first opened at the Loretto Christian Life Centre.
The goal was to provide students with the opportunity to encounter Christ through a unique retreat experience.
Nearly a quarter century after the program began, SCOEP was moved to the former Our Lady of Grace Catholic Elementary School in Ridgeway, after the sale and closure of the Loretto Christian Life Centre. In 2013, the program transformed into its current version, Journey Retreat, a two-day, one-night retreat for Grade 8 students in all of our Catholic elementary schools.
During the February 13 Committee of the Whole Meeting, Board Chaplaincy Leader Krista Wood provided trustees with an overview of what students experience at Journey; and why it is a “jewel in the crown that is Catholic education in Niagara.”
Journey Retreat is a model for other school boards in the province, which frequently seek to replicate it in their own boards. In addition to being the site of Grade 8 retreats, Journey Retreat is also a peaceful location for staff faith formation sessions and was used for the first Student Senate Retreat in advance of the Lead Out Loud Elementary Student Conference in November. Board staff frequently present about Journey Retreat at conferences, including ones hosted by the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association (OCSTA), the Ontario Catholic Supervisor Officers’ Association (OCSOA), Catholic School Chaplains of Ontario (CSCO) and When Faith Meets Pedagogy. Elementary chaplaincy leader Nick Ali also used Journey Retreat to create a faith-based escape room for gifted students, who were required to explore the gifts and talents God gave them to solve clues that would allow them to “escape.”
The Spiritual Centre is alive with faith, from the murals painted by students and staff on the ways, to the tabernacle installed in the chapel for the repose of the Blessed Sacrament. While there, students participate in a number of meaningful activities that not only bring them closer together as classmates, but to their faith and their own unique relationship with God.
Creation Walk refreshes and revitalizes students, providing them with time spent in prayer and contemplation. When they leave behind the distractions of technology and spend quiet time alone, students are open to a conversion of heart that deepens their faith. Students spend time at the beach following a hike through Marcy’s Woods, where they experience the practice of Lectio-Divina, reader scripture through prayer, reflection and meditation. As a group, they discuss and explore what it means to be followers of Christ, and develop skills that help them overcome challenges they may face on their faith journey.
Teambuilding activities promote leadership and team dynamic skills, which will be crucial for their personal development. These activities are particularly focused on social and environmental justice.
As part of the Board’s theological theme One Family in Christ: Serve Him, students create special blankets that are given to students to support them during times of grief or bereavement. Bearing the message Made for you with prayers and love by students at the Journey Retreat, the blankets are a tangible way students to show their care for others.
The experience at Journey Retreat culminates with a Mass and a family night dinner, which serves to strengthen the home-school-parish triad. Pastors often join students for portions of the retreat, and some have even joined in for the entire stay.
This year, 61 classes – more than 1,400 students – will participate in Journey Retreats, including some Grade 7 students from smaller schools that visit Journey on alternating years.
Student Trustee Nico Tripodi fondly recalled his own time at Journey Retreat during the meeting.
“Journey truly is a time to form connections,” he said. “Connections with classmates, connections with teachers, connections with parents, and connections with God.”
In a video presentation to the Board, Bishop Gerard Bergie credited Journey Retreat for being a place of sanctuary for students. He likened life to often being like a stormy sea – boats on the surface may be tossed about, but submarines down below are unaffected by the storm.
Saint Kateri Tekawith Centre Supports Indigenous Students on Path to Graduation
The Ministry of Education considers Indigenous students to be among those at highest risk for not completing their education.
Working in partnership with the Niagara Regional Native Centre and the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, Niagara Catholic created the St. Kateri Tekawitha Centre, which provides Indigenous students with the support they require to complete their education in an alternative setting. Land-based learning is an important aspect of the students’ education, as is Outdoor Education, in partnership with Brock University.
Now in its third year, there have been more than 20 graduates from the Centre.
School Year Calendars 2018-2019
During the February 13 Board Meeting, Trustees were presented with a draft copy of the 2018-2019 School Year Calendar. The consultation process provided elementary and secondary principals, vice-principals and Catholic School Council Chairs with a copy of the draft calendar, as well as the Niagara Catholic Parent Involvement Committee (NCPIC), the Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC), OCETA Elementary and Secondary Units, the CUPE local president and the Student Achievement Department.
Key dates in the draft calendar are:
First day of school: Monday, September 3
Christmas Break – December 24 – January 4
March Break – March 11-15
The Draft 2018-2019 School Year Calendar will be discussed at the February 27 Board Meeting. If approved, it will be sent to the Ministry of Education for final approval. A copy of the Board-approved calendar will be posted on the Board website for families to review, and will be placed with the Ministry-approved copy this spring.
We’re halfway through February already! Don’t forget to check our Good News section of this website to see great stories on the programs and events taking place in our schools. Maybe you missed the story on Saint Michael Catholic High School graduate Julianne Miszk induction onto the Niagara Falls Sports Wall of Fame, or perhaps you want to find out more about our Pathways Speakers Summit. If you’re looking for good news, this is the place to go!
To ensure you stay connected with Niagara Catholic news and events, please be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and check our website often for updates and breaking news. It’s the best way to stay in the know, especially now that winter is here! If you like what you see online – tell your friends and have them like or follow Niagara Catholic, too!
The Niagara Catholic District School Board, through the charisms of faith, social justice, support and leadership, nurtures an enriching Catholic learning community for all to reach their full potential and become living witnesses of Christ.