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Messages from Chair of the Board, Rick Petrella

December 22, 2020

My Dear Friends,

In line with the commitment from this Board regarding transparent and timely communication, I wanted to take this opportunity to provide an update based on the recent announcement by the Ontario Government. 

With the announcement yesterday, I want to assure you that the Brant Haldimand Norfolk Catholic District School Board has been diligently preparing for this situation. The Ministry of Education, in partnership with the Ministry of Health, announced yesterday that as a result of the increasing COVID-19 infection rate in Ontario, all students will resume classes after the Christmas break in a virtual learning format. 

Elementary and secondary students will receive all instruction online for the first week in January, with elementary students resuming face to face instruction on January 11, 2021 and secondary students on January 25, 2021. Teachers will contact students and families on January 4, 2021 for specific details of their instruction, and all classes will be conducted via the Brightspace learning platform. There will be no change or disruption to students who are currently enrolled in the virtual elementary and secondary schools as the school will remain fully operational and continue as normal.

Parents will receive specific instructions and more information with regards to what online learning will look like when we return in the new year, and how to access their learning and learning materials. The Board has also developed a time-sensitive process for those families requesting a device. For more information on student devices visit the Board Issued Student Devices document posted in the FAQ section of the Board website.

The BHNCDSB is very proud of the incredible efforts that we have made in an effort to keep all of our staff and students safe. The government was clear when making this decision that schools are still a safe place for students but given the potential for social activities over the break, combined with the increased rate of community infection, the extra week will serve as a further safety measure to protect our students and staff. 

Thanks for your continued support and patience as we journey together through our efforts to combat COVID-19 and keep our students and staff healthy and safe. We will continue to provide real time information to our school communities as it develops.

Moving forward, all family communication will arrive via email only. Please check your inbox regularly. I also encourage you to visit the COVID-19 section of our website where you will find messages from me, FAQs, Virtual School Information (for our established Virtual School) and COVID-19 Cases by Location.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank you once again for your patience and understanding and wish you a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year. 

Thank you and God Bless,

Rick Petrella, Chair of the Board


November 30, 2020

Dear parents, families, and staff,

Like all other Boards throughout the Province, we have recently seen an increase of positive COVID-19 cases in our community. This has proven concerning to many, and I want to provide you with information and updates pertaining to our Board.

Although there have been reports of COVID-19 in connection to our schools, to date the transmission has been community spread. Although I cannot predict if this will always be the case, it is important to note that the plan we established in August in respect to facility sanitization, increased cleaning protocols, and COVID-19 case protocols have proven effective. Our staff have done an amazing job and continue to work hard, including modifying existing plans and protocols in response to public health directives. Please know that we are doing everything we can, following guidance from our public health experts, to keep our schools as safe as possible for all. As has been the case since the pandemic began, the health and safety of our staff and students is our priority. To this end, as a Board, we have already committed our budget surplus from last year be used solely for the purpose of COVID-19 related health and safety expenditures such as staffing, PPE and cleaning supplies.

The District remains ready to respond to any directive issued by the Ministry of Education. Plans are in place to support students, regardless of the learning model and we are pleased to report that both our virtual and in-school learners are having rich learning experiences. Staff have been brilliant in responding to the needs of all learners and I am proud of our resilient and innovative team of over 1,400 professionals. They say it takes a community to raise a child, and it is evident everyday when we see the commitment of our staff, that this Catholic community is strong and committed to all.

As we continue to navigate this pandemic and the changes to the areas we serve, please remember to be kind to each other, support those in need, and do your best to remain well.

God bless,

Rick Petrella, Chair of the Board


October 5, 2020

My Friends,

As part of the Board’s ongoing commitment to regularly provide updates to our school communities, I wanted to take the opportunity to provide you with some important information.

I want you to be aware that our Board has two new confirmed cases of COVID-19. The two individual cases are in two Brantford schools:  Assumption College School and St Gabriel Catholic Elementary School. Upon notification by public health of each case, staff followed the designated procedure including additional instructions to contact families in each impacted class over the weekend. Continuing with the procedure, our administrators also communicated the two cases to each broader school community and to the public. As part of the Board’s commitment, these communications were released in a transparent and timely manner following the guidance of our public health partners.

Like many school districts in the Province, and despite our enhanced safety measures, we have had positive cases of COVID-19 in our schools; three in total. The two sites identified on the weekend were thoroughly deep cleaned, as per our enhanced cleaning and sanitizing protocols. I want to thank all our custodial staff who worked so hard to ensure the schools were ready to safely welcome staff and students this morning. Our staff continue to work hard at all our sites to ensure that our schools are the safest that they can be.

With the increase of COVID-19 cases across the Province in mind, I want to address the many emails and phone calls the Board has received in respect to physical distancing guidelines not being followed by some of our Secondary students.

First and foremost, I would like to highlight the hard work done by our Secondary Administrators and school staff in their attempt to curtail this behavior. Our staff have been working hard to remind, reinforce, and educate our students on the importance of physical distancing and of their responsibility to others in our community to adhere to these important health guidelines.

We reinforce this message at our schools on a regular basis and staff are vigilante in correcting students who are not physically distancing. In an attempt to work collaboratively with our Bylaw Officers and local businesses, our administrators have visited off site locations during high-volume times, like lunch hours, to assist in ensuring compliance. For the most part, our students recognize and respect the obligation they have to physically distance. It is unfortunate that, despite our efforts, we still witness some groups of students failing to do their part.

I think you can agree with me that this is not acceptable and therefore, I respectfully and humbly ask for your assistance in ensure all our students comply with physical distancing measures. I respectfully ask you to speak to your children about the importance of physical distancing and reinforce the message that working together and supporting the health of others, is a responsibility that we all have.

I would like to share some positive news in respect to the bussing issue we are experiencing. In September, we informed some families of the need to reduce bus routes for students in specific areas due to driver shortages. We have been actively working with our school bus companies to oversee their recruitment efforts for new drivers to correct this gap. I am happy to report that through these efforts the number of rotating bus route cancellations has been decreased. As more drivers continue to be hired and trained, the outstanding rotating route cancellations will be eliminated. Communications will continue to be sent directly to families impacted to keep them updated about their specific routes. Hiring projections indicate that the bussing issue will be resolved in the coming weeks.

I would like to extend my thanks to all of you for your trust, patience, and support. We will continue our commitment to doing everything possible to ensure safe and inclusive environments for your children and our staff.

I welcome your comments and feedback and will continue to respond as soon as possible.

Wishing you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving. Please remember that even if you are unable to be together physically, the wonderful blessing of family provides support and strength in any situation.

Thank you and God Bless,

Rick Petrella, Chair of the Board


September 24, 2020

My dear friends,

As you are aware, yesterday we announced our first positive case of COVID-19 in one of our Brantford schools. I understand that this may raise some concerns and possibly many questions. I want to take this opportunity to assure you that we are taking all possible steps, under the direction of Public Health Ontario and our local public health units, to minimize student and staff exposure and risk level.

I wanted to reaffirm our Board’s commitment to transparent communication and share that we are doing everything we possibly can to mitigate the risks in our schools as we navigate through this pandemic.

As we are set to complete our third week of in-person classes and all our staff have pulled together to ensure that our schools are as safe as possible. We have placed many additional resources including staff in schools to improve safety and enhance the educational experience.

  • We have hired close to 50 teachers and related staff to assist in reducing class sizes and strengthen our online learning platforms where appropriate.
  • We have hired 14 custodians to support enhanced cleaning protocols.
  • We continue to offer additional teaching positions available with our Board.
  • We initiated enhanced cleaning measures with the support of Facilities Services.
  • Our heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are some of the most modern in the Province and meet or exceed the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRE) standards for ventilation and filtration.
  • We have increased the frequency and filtration ratings of the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) to our HVAC filter renewal program.
  • We have placed many standalone high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) units where appropriate in classrooms, to enhance ventilation and airflow.
  • We have provided masks and personal protective equipment (PPE) for all children in our schools and we have seen a huge uptake in voluntary face-covering/mask wearing by our JK-3 students.
  • We are working very closely with our local and provincial Medical Officers of Health and following their guidance and direction.

I want to reassure everyone that the Board is committed to doing everything possible to ensure that we are providing the safest environment for our children, families, educators, and staff.

We recognize that this pandemic has presented challenges new to us and new to our families, and we anticipate that as more information about COVID-19 is released, this may continue. Our Board is committed to doing whatever we can, under the guidance of Public Health and in consultation with our partners, to meet these challenges together and find solutions to help ensure our schools are a safe as possible.

Despite uncertainty and the many changes to our daily routines and learning environments, together as a Catholic community we have all lived our Faith and demonstrated our resiliency. We stand by our commitment to all to communicate with transparency, even when the news we must share is not as positive as we would have hoped. We stand committed to listening to you and please know that we appreciate receiving your feedback, including concerns.

I thank you once again for your patience and understanding as, remaining connected by our Catholic faith, we navigate this pandemic together.

God Bless,

Rick Petrella, Chair of the Board


September 8, 2020

My Dear Friends,

I would like to take this opportunity to welcome everyone to the 2020-21 school year. We know that it has been an uncertain time for us all and, as Chair of the Board, I am extremely proud of the way that we have worked together as a Catholic community for the past several months to prepare for a safe return to school.

I am proud of the great work our Board has done to communicate the many changes that we have seen in education since the declaration of the pandemic last March. I also want to take this opportunity to thank everyone for the questions, input, comments, and suggestions provided to the Board. This collaborative approach has helped the Board prepare and provide different learning options for our Catholic community that are both safe and inclusive for this unique school year.

I want to also thank our parents for their patience and understanding throughout this pandemic and the ever-evolving requests and changes that they have been asked to endure since March.

I wanted to further express my deep appreciation for our leadership teams, staff, and union partners for their hard work and commitment to our students. Together, your efforts have enabled our Board to be well-prepared and ready to welcome our students, whether in-person or virtually.

We recognize that this will be a unique and fluid situation in the days and months ahead, but this Board is ready to adapt and continue the focus on creating safe and healthy schools. We have, and always will be, committed to providing transparent regular information to our community and will continue to work hard to answer your questions in a timely manner. This commitment remains in place as we move forward and throughout this new school year.

We have been very busy over the past few months preparing for September’s return and have had many changes to ensure that our schools are as safe as possible. These changes include but are not limited to:

  • PPE requirements for staff and students
  • Self-assessment requirements for everyone entering a school
  • Enhanced cleaning standards and protocols
  • Establishment of new nutrition break and playground routines
  • Improvements to ventilation and monitoring processes
  • New signage and other structures to promote social distancing
  • A staggered entry to the school year
  • Hiring of new staff
  • Establishment of a virtual elementary and secondary schools
  • Protocols to manage and alert families of positive cases of COVID-19 within our schools

We hope that these safeguards, along with our other new practices, will help keep our students, staff and community as safe as possible as we venture forward together. I do ask that you ensure that your email contact information on file at the school is accurate as email will be the primary method of communication to families over the coming months and as we continue to navigate this pandemic. Also, continue to visit the Frequently Asked Questions section of our website as we continue to answer questions and assist families.

We ask for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary to protect us and help us during these difficult times.

God Bless
Rick Petrella, Chair of the Board


August 24, 2020

Dear families,

I would like to thank you for your patience and support as we continue to navigate through these unprecedented times. We understand that the re-opening of our schools this September has cause a great deal of uncertainty for our families. We would, once again, like to assure you that health and safety is our top priority and that we continue to follow the direction of Public Health Ontario, our local public health units (BCHU and HNHU) and the Ministry of Education.

As part of our commitment to provide regular updates as they become available, I would like to share the following updates with you today:


At the end of June, the BHNCDSB presented our secondary model to the Ministry of Education. The Ministry approved the plan which then was moved forward to our Board of Trustees who unanimously approved its direction and implementation. The plan was then shared with staff, families, and members of the community.  

Recent new direction from the Ministry of Education pertaining to a requirement to ‘count student contacts’ has put us in a very unique position that requires us to make changes to that plan. Like many other school boards in the Province, we have now been directed and required by the Ministry of Education to change our “return to school” model at the secondary level. Our secondary schools will still run on a quadmester schedule, but now with students attending only one subject (class) each day. The second subject (class) will run the following week. The two subjects (classes) will alternate weekly until the end of the Term. Students will continue to attend everyday but instead of taking two courses each day they will take one. View the new quadmester timetable on our website.

We apologize for this change and realize that it may have added further uncertainty for families, but we just received this information from the Ministry late last week and asked to implement the new schedule. Schools will be reaching out to you this week with respect to student timetables. We understand that this new model may cause some families to reconsider the choice they expressed in the parent School Re-opening Survey. We will be releasing the Official Distance Education/Online Learning Registration process next week. This will be the opportunity for families to choose distance learning if that is what they are most comfortable with.

I understand and share your concern that this change may have added further uncertainty for families, but the new direction we just received from the Ministry was clear and we were directed to implement this new schedule as a result. Schools will be reaching out to you this week with respect to student timetables. We understand that this new model may cause some families to reconsider the choice they expressed in the parent survey. I want to assure everyone that regardless of the selection you made during the registration process we will permit you to adjust to the delivery model that you feel most comfortable with.

Staggered Start to the School Year

The Ministry of Education has allowed school boards to stagger the start of the school year for up to two weeks in an effort to ensure that important health and safety protocols and routines can be established with students in a smaller, controlled environment. Understanding the importance of health and safety, we are using this time to introduce and review what practices and processes are included in this year’s return to school. Students will transition back into a very different school than they left.

Staggered entry does not apply to students with significant special education needs as it has been identified that it is essential for the student to attend school on all days. These are students in self-contained special education classes, on an alternative report cards and require significant ongoing assistance throughout the entire school day. We welcome these students back to school beginning on Tuesday, September 8, 2020.


Students will return to school based on grade beginning on Tuesday, September 8, 2020. All in-class students will be fully returned to school by Wednesday, September 16, 2020. Distance Education/Online Learning students will engage in check-ins and information sessions via Brightspace with their teachers. School Administrators will provide the secondary staggered start date schedules later this week.

Elementary including St. Mary’s Catholic Learning Centre

Students will return to school on staggered days based on the local school decision (by alphabetical order, keeping siblings attending on the same days). The first day of the staggered cycle is Tuesday, September 8, 2020.

All in-class students JK to Grade 8 and St. Mary’s Catholic Learning Centre students will be fully returned to school by Wednesday, September 16, 2020. Principals will send out the individual schedules for each school this week. The expectation is to have at least one quarter of the school population attend at least once the first week of school.

We understand that this may cause some issues around childcare and that is why we chose to stagger the entry alphabetically in an effort to ensure that students in each household will attend the same day. All families will be receiving communication from your schools this week which will clarify the breakdown of students according to that school and when your child or children will be attending.

Junior Kindergarten students will follow a different staggered entry process that will focus on the important transition they are making to school. School staff will reach out to these families separately with specific details.

Remote Learning Students

Students in remote learning will start September 16, 2020 with some introductory activities and accessibility check-ins starting September 14, 2020. School staff will be in touch with additional information within the next few weeks. Registration for Distance Education/Online Learning will open for all students, elementary and secondary, on Wednesday Aug 26, 2020.

Our board is committed to ensuring a safe and smooth return to school for our students. We are always committed to regularly evaluating and adjusting protocols and scenarios as developments occur. Our board has made the proper investments and adjustments to ensure we are providing the best and safest environment for our students under these challenging times.

For now, we ask that you continue to move forward and reach out if you need help. I encourage each of you to visit the Frequently Asked Questions page of our website , visit the Board’s website for updates as we share them, and feel free to contact us if you have any questions or require assistance.

I wish you well and will continue to provide you with information as I receive it.

God bless,
Rick Petrella, Chair of the Board


August 10, 2020

Dear families,

In line with my promise to provide a comprehensive and well-developed re-opening plan, I am pleased to share that the Board of Trustees have approved the plan that was presented to us at the August 10, 2020 Meeting of the Board of Trustees. Our final Return to School Plan includes items such as bussing, suspected Covid-19 cases, outbreak protocols, choosing Distance Education, and other critical items. As a parent with a child in our system, I am also in a position where I need to know details in order to ensure that my child is as safe as she can possibly be, when she returns in September.

The following documents contain all the information that you will need to make an informed decision about the September return to school and includes what we are doing ‘on the ground’ to help your children learn safely. We encourage you to review them.

Summary Guide - A Re-opening Plan, 2020-21: For Parents, Staff and Community 
Presentation to the Board of Trustees (slides shared at the August 10, 2020 Meeting of the Board of Trustees)
Full Plan (very detailed plan accounting for multiple scenarios)

As we move towards the first day for students, September 8, more information will be added to the plan and messaged out to families and staff. As September approaches, please feel free to reach out to your local trustee, school principal or email for information that you cannot find in the plan.

We thank you for your patience and understanding as we navigate through this pandemic and work towards a safe September re-opening.

God Bless,

Rick Petrella, Chair of the Board