Mariette Martineau with the Kenora Catholic District School Board is leading a team of educators to help provide inclusive and equal education opportunities for all students, which includes looking into chronic absenteeism rates in the area.

Trustees with the KCDSB met virtually on January 19, and Martineau, the board’s Religious Education and Family Life Coordinator, provided an update on the board’s Equity and Inclusive Education, Culturally Relevant Presented Pedagogy strategy, which has an implementation goal of June of 2021.

She says while the board has been celebrating their diverse and multicultural community, more can be done to implement these cultures into the board’s identity.

“We teach Anishinaabe, we celebrate the feasts, but it doesn’t require a lot of change from us to do that. We change the calendar, we change some of the physical space, but we don’t ultimately change who we are in identity,” she said.

Martineau says to be truly equal, it must be evidence-based and the data must show things have balanced out. An example could be in suspension and expulsion rates, and if there’s a high amount of them in a minority demographic, it would show equity wouldn’t be taking place.

“This is the scary part when you’re moving towards equity. Racism is alive and well, it’s in every community around the world, and it’s part of our reality as well. We’re trying to burst the racism bubble in particular, so we can get to true equity. We’re not a bad place, but we have a lot of work to do,” she added.

Martineau says some of that work includes ongoing consultations with community and Indigenous partners on concerns like language inclusion and attendance, and a student data management project as a census on their students by November of 2021, funded by the Ministry of Education.

The Equity and Inclusive Education, Culturally Relevant Presented Pedagogy is the third part of the ongoing work, which asks what will happen to attendance rates when the board, with the help of families, creates more responsive and inclusive school environments?

“The reality is our attendance rates are a challenge. We have a large population of chronic absentees, and we need to be moving on this. We fundamentally believe that there is a connection between the attendance rates, and the systemic barriers that some of our students encounter as it affects their sense of belonging. And it also affects our staff,” Martineau said.

“And as a Catholic organization, we know that no plan of pastoral activity must ever fail to take into consideration the area of the family. Families are centre to this. It’s critical,” added Martineau, who hopes to be able to meet with more educators and families for their input on the work and students’ educational barriers, post COVID-19.

“Equity is a huge organizational climate shift, and you’ll never arrive. There’s always going to be some form of an iceberg in front of you. But we need to be able to identify barriers to equity, and we need to have the courage to see oppression and work to eliminate it, by everyone,” she said.

During the meeting, Director of Education Paul White noted the board is seeing students from their St. Isidore Virtual School switch back to in-person learning, due to the board’s many COVID-19 safety protocols in place.

All students are asked to use Ontario’s online screening tool before attending school each day, and to stay home, self-isolate, get tested and remain in isolation until your results are known, if you’re feeling unwell.

For more information:
Virtual students switching back to in-person at Kenora Catholic