The good ship Barndinghy is not your typical classroom.

When the Barnard family learned they would have to continue their children’s education online after schools closed in the COVID-19 pandemic, they found themselves spending a lot more time on the family boat, moored at a North Vancouver marina.

Mom Christy Barnard has found that her children, who attend St. Helen’s Elementary and Notre Dame Regional Secondary, are getting a lot out of their virtual studies while bobbing in the waves.

“Since COVID-19, we have brought the full classroom to the boat,” she said. That includes a long-distance Wifi connection that allows them to connect to all the Zoom classes and virtual resources they need to work on homework from shore.

When her kids are not in the virtual classroom, their studies are continuing nonetheless, says Christy.

“There is always some sort of natural education happening,” she said. After scheduled class times, her kids might be found hiking along the shore or foraging for sea glass and other interesting collectibles.

“We’ve seen orcas, sea lions, seals, and a variety of fish and seafoods.”

It’s also helped bring a sense of routine to a world riding the uncertain waves of a health crisis.

“Being on the water is a regular family activity for us and has helped us maintain a sense of ‘normal’ for our family during these challenging times.”

Catholic families around the archdiocese have found other creative ways to continue education as well. During Holy Week, a St. John Paul II Academy student kept a “Triduum journal” and participated in some of the rites and symbols of that holy time, despite being unable to go to school or church.

That included washing the feet of his parents.

“While it was a weird experience to wash the feet of somebody else, there was a message behind it,” Alexander wrote in his journal. “It was a way to show my parents humility, respect, and gratitude for everything that they had done for me.”

Has your family done anything out of the ordinary in the virtual classroom? Let us know! Email us at [email protected]..


As many students returned to Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Vancouver, physical distancing was the order order of the day, including among staff preparing for the first day of school.

At St. Patrick’s Regional Secondary in Vancouver, staff attended an in-service on health and safety orientation where physical distancing required making use of the entire school gym.

St. Patrick’s Secondary staff at an in-service before the return to school. (St. Patrick’s Facebook)

Meanwhile, physical distancing and safety protocols were evident at schools across the archdiocese.

Students at Cloverdale Catholic Elementary practise physical distancing on the first day back to school. (Cloverdale Catholic Facebook)

Plexiglass installed at the front office of St. Bernadette Elementary in Surrey. (St. Bernadette Facebook)

Even ping pong is subject to physical distancing at St. Helen’s Elementary. (St. Helen’s photos)
Physical distancing at St. Helen’s Elementary.
Classrooms take on a new look during pandemic.

Staff, students and parents at Catholic high schools in the Archdiocese of Vancouver have been exploring various ways to help their Grade 12 graduates celebrate in a safe and physically-distant way. 

In Abbotsford, St. John Brebeuf students and parents took part in a graduation Mass, held with a limit of 50 people participating, while hundreds of others watched online.

Father Mark McGuckin, the high school’s chaplain, celebrated the Mass at St. Mary’s Church in Chilliwack.

St. John Brebeuf principal Gianni Bittante addresses the graduating students as Father Mark McGuckin listens. (SJB photo)

Let us know how your Catholic school is handling the end of the school year, and in particular graduation events. Email us at [email protected].