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Common Questions about the Sudden 'New Normal'

The 2019-20 academic year continues to re-write the record books. 

The government-mandated closure of school buildings, the move to online learning at St. Michael’s College School (SMCS), and a host of other public health directives aligned to the pandemic response --- is prompting plenty of questions. 

Guidance department at SMCS

SMCS Guidance staff continue to answer student and parent questions online during the closure of the school building, due to the pandemic.

Our Student Affairs Department, comprised of Guidance, the Learning Enrichment Centre (LEC), and the Odette Library is on the frontlines of answering many of these inquiries. 

“While shifting to the online learning environment, we are committed to delivering the curriculum as seamlessly as possible,” says Frank Trentadue ’84, Director of Student Affairs at SMCS. “Faculty has been agile and nimble in adapting to the changing landscape of this virtual learning environment.”

SMCS Student Affairs Director and Assistant meeting in their office

Frank Trentadue ’84, Director of Student Affairs and Lynette Fernandes, Guidance Assistant (both pictured), are part of an eight-member team in the Student Affairs Department.

We asked the six guidance counsellors who make up the Student Affairs Department for the most common questions they have received from current students and parents, since this temporary ‘new normal’ has taken hold.

1. May I still make some changes to my courses for next year? 

Yes. Many course changes can be accommodated even into September. Some changes are simple switches, whereas others may require a longer conversation and parental input (in cases where the change could potentially impact post-secondary options). In some cases, enrolment in the desired course may be limited, and there may be a waitlist, so requests for changes are just that at this point: requests.

Counselling about course changes is currently virtual (phone or Zoom) rather than in person. 

2. Will summer school still be an option (either to upgrade a mark or to work ahead and earn a new credit)? 

We don't know yet what the province and the local school boards will decide about the duration of the school year or whether it will be safe or feasible to offer summer school. St. Michael’s plans to offer its Civics and Careers courses via Edsby as per usual, but we don't know what other providers (public or private) will decide to do. Updates will be posted on our class pages on Edsby as we receive them. 

SMCS Guidance Counsellor meets with one of his students.

John Connelly (left), is among six guidance counsellors now supporting student and parent requests virtually during the pandemic.​​​​

3. From some Grade 12s: Will I still be able to go to university next year?

While it's certainly not business as usual, our students are continuing to receive offers of admission. St. Michael’s teachers are deeply committed to students and their success; they are working hard to help every student to graduate and to support their academic goals even if there needs to be some creativity and flexibility through the transition to online study. 

The Ontario Universities Application Centre (OUAC) is closed to telephone inquiries, but is available via e-mail and chat. Universities have signalled that they will do everything in their power to support students and offer full programmes of study for their first year in the fall of 2020.

There is no predicting the future under these unprecedented circumstances, but we remain cautiously optimistic that our students will experience the same high level of success with university admissions as has been the case in previous years.

It is wise for students who were intending to take up offers outside of Canada to consider ‘plan B’ and ‘plan C’ at this point, as there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding border restrictions and when they will be lifted.

SMCS Guidance Counsellor speaking to a student

SMCS Guidance counsellors support students with everything from academic, courses and programming questions to career-planning.

4. Will the Civics and Career Studies online summer course still be offered, and does it need to be signed by my counsellor?

Yes. The document posted on the Edsby River (parent letter, FAQ, and revised registration form) is due the week of April 14, starting at 8 a.m.

No, the registration form DOES NOT need a counsellor signature.

5. Are there any helpful tips you could offer to help students adjust to online learning?

  • Follow a daily schedule as if you were actually in school - Monday to Friday.
    There is a sample template timetable for students Grades 7 to 12 in their Edsby Group Class of 2021, 22, 23 page and the Guidance Edsby Group.
  • Make sure to schedule in relaxation and fun time with family and friends (Skype, video games, social media).
  • Students should regularly check for new posts on their Edsby Group Class page.
  • Reach out to subject teachers when lessons, assignments, instructions are not clear. Do not be shy!
  • Exercise at least four to five times per week for at least 30-40 minutes. Be ACTIVE, get your heart rates up to a level that you can't easily carry on a conversation with yourself!
SMCS Learning Enrichment Centre Staff

Laura Callaghan (pictured) is among two guidance counsellors in the Learning Enrichment Centre (LEC) at SMCS, supporting students with specific educational needs.

“Students have been remarkably resilient and responsive to the new method of delivery, as many of the initial overwhelming feelings of uncertainty have subsided considerably,” says Trentadue, who previously taught English, Religion and Careers for 31 years at SMCS, as well as coaching, before taking on his current position. “The Student Affairs Department is available to support all students, parents, and staff when necessary. Students should make it a habit to check their Edsby ‘class group’ page for timely updates from counsellors or to simply keep their spirits up.”

SMCS Learning Enrichment Centre teacher at her desk

Guidance counsellor Erin Hogan, who works in the Learning Enrichment Centre (LEC) supports the ongoing development of resources for students of all learning styles.

See our Online Learning Checklist for Success.