PVNC Return to School Plan

Updated on Sept. 16, 2020

Introduction by Director of Education Michael Nasello

The school year begins for students the week of Sept. 8, 2020 and we are looking forward to that energy and excitement that comes from schools filled with staff and students, which we have all missed. 

Like you, here at Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington (PVNC) Catholic District School Board, we are both excited and anxious about what the school year will look like. I have been keeping all of our staff, students and families in my own prayers, asking God to keep all of us safe and well during these unusual times. At PVNC, our return to school planning is focussed on safeguarding the health and wellbeing of students, staff and the community based on advice, guidance and directives of provincial and local public health officials.

As you are well aware by now, school will look different in September than we’re used to. It will be different for staff, students and parents/guardians alike. Collectively, we will all need to adapt and accept new procedures as we move through this unprecedented school year. Our goal is to provide our students with a meaningful educational experience while taking the necessary steps to lessen risks.

Our PVNC Return to School Plan is based on the best information we have to date and it may need to be modified and updated as new data from Public Health or the Ministry of Education becomes available. 

We encourage parents, guardians and students to read this material carefully in order to make important decisions for their families.

Please know that whether you are sending your child back to school or enrolling in our Learn at Home remote learning program, our administrators, educators and support staff are committed to providing our students with safe learning environments that promote student achievement and well-being in the Catholic education system that our families have come to expect. 


Michael Nasello


PVNC Return to School Plan

This webpage outlines important information for students, parents and guardians about what a school day will look like both for in-person and remote learners, our new health and safety protocols, student supports and more. It will be updated with new resources as they are available.

Below you will find important links, including the full PVNC Return to School Plan and our most recent communications to families. We know not all parents/guardians will have the time to read the entire report, so we have broken down the information in easy to navigate sections below. 

For answers to specific questions that we have been fielding from families, please see our Return to School Parent/Guardian FAQ site, which will also be updated as more answers become available.

UPDATED PVNC will begin the 2020-2021 school year with a staggered entry for all students. Details can be found here. 

NEW Attention virtual learners, Welcome to the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Virtual School 

We are committed to ongoing communication with families throughout the school year to provide further details about specific school level information and board wide updates. As always, once the school year begins, classroom teachers and school principals will be your main contact for information about your child and local school programming.

Important Links:


On July 30, 2020, the provincial government announced that PVNC would be among a group of Ontario school boards that are to implement a full-time, in-class school model for the beginning of the upcoming school year for both elementary and secondary students, with enhanced health and safety requirements.

That means all students in PVNC will have the opportunity to return to full-time, in-person classroom learning beginning in staggered start dates the week of  Sept. 8, 2020. This includes all secondary schools in Clarington, which will follow the same reopening schedule as all other PVNC schools.

The Ministry of Education has indicated that families may choose not to attend in-person school at this time (both elementary and secondary). Students who opt-out of in-class learning will continue to receive instruction through our established PVNC Learn at Home model, with an emphasis on real-time learning through online classrooms or elearning courses.

The School Day

Our return to school planning is focussed on safeguarding the health and wellbeing of students, staff and the community based on advice, guidance and directives of provincial and local public health officials.

Based on the information that we currently have, here’s a breakdown of what school will look like beginning in September.

  • Students will attend five days a week with 300 minutes of instruction per day.
  • Students will remain in their class cohort for the full day, including recess and lunch.
  • Timing of recesses, lunches, and bathroom breaks will be staggered to support student contacts of 50 as much as possible, as directed by the Ministry of Education.
  • There will be clearly marked designated entrances and exits for students.
  • Students in Grades 4 to 8 are expected to wear a non-medical mask at school, with the exception of outdoor recess breaks.
  • Students in primary grades (K-3) are encouraged to wear a non-medical mask at school, with the exception of outdoor recess breaks.
  • Specialized teachers, such as French teachers and Integrated Arts and Literacy teachers will still be able to go into classrooms to provide full programming for students. Students will also be able to leave their classrooms to receive additional supports, but contacts in schools for students will be limited.
  • Outdoor learning spaces will be utilized as much as possible, weather permitting.
  • There will be enhanced cleaning protocols, including cleaning of high touch surfaces, and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) as advised and necessary.
  • Hand washing or hand sanitizer will be available in every classroom and washroom, and at strategic locations throughout each school.
  • Visitors to schools will be limited to emergencies or pre-arranged appointments.
  • Volunteers for our Breakfast Programs will be welcome to continue their important service to our students, following the same procedures as our staff.
  • Lunch drop off will not be accommodated. Students must bring their own lunch to school with them in the morning.
  • There will be no assemblies or large gatherings.
  • Mental health and well-being supports will be available for students in all schools.
  • Students will attend five days a week with 300 minutes of class time per day.
  • Students in Grades 9 to 12 will be expected to wear a non-medical mask while at school.
  • To minimize the number of contacts each day, there will be a reduced number of credits at one time to keep student cohorts intact as much as possible. As such, secondary schools will be operating in a quadmester mode, with students participating in two courses between September and November and two courses between November and January. Final exams will take place at the end of each course. Further to this, we will run an alternating day schedule with the first subject class running all day on one day, and the other subject class running all day the next. UPDATED The only exception is St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Secondary School in Lindsay, which will operate on a unique schedule.
  • Students will remain in class cohorts, including lunch and will take regular breaks throughout the day.
  • In order to respect the cohort requirements, secondary students will be required to remain on school property throughout the day. Students who feel they cannot meet these requirements should consider the online learning option.
  • Outdoor breaks will be taken together as a class (this will allow for a break from mask wearing).
  • Lunches will be scheduled by each school. Students should bring all food for the day with them to school.
  • At the end of the day, students will proceed to their designated exit for travel home at the direction of their school administration.
  • In order to reduce the risk of transmission and to support contact tracing, student contacts will be limited to about 100 people in the school, as directed by the Ministry of Education.
  • At this time, student lockers will not be available until further notice. Students are to keep their belongings with them at their desk and are encouraged to only bring the materials they will need for learning.
  • The cafeteria and library will not be available as common spaces – however they may need to be used as dedicated classroom space.
  • Outdoor learning spaces will be utilized as much as possible, weather permitting.
  • There will be enhanced protocols, including cleaning of high touch surfaces, regular opportunities for hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, and use of personal protective equipment (PPE), where advised and necessary.
  • Visitors to schools will be limited to emergencies or pre-arranged appointments.
  • Volunteers for our Breakfast Programs will be welcome to continue their important service to our students, following the same procedures as our staff.
  • There will be no assemblies or large gatherings.
  • Mental health and well-being supports will be available for students.
NEW Welcome to the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Virtual School PVNC is pleased to announce the launch of the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Virtual School. All virtual learners at PVNC will be enrolled in the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Virtual School. With more than 2,200 students enrolled in remote learning, the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Virtual School will be the board’s largest school, welcoming 1,440 elementary students and 770 secondary students.  More information about the virtual school administration and staggered start times for the 2020-2021 school year have been posted to the Board’s website.  Named after the Patron Saint of students and Catholic schools, the virtual school will serve students from Kindergarten through Grade 12 and will employ approximately 80 teachers and support staff.
  • Students enrolled them in the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Virtual School will be engaged in remote learning five days per week.
  • Online learning at PVNC will continue to be delivered through the Google suite of educational tools such as Google Classroom and Google Meet. Parents or guardians will be required to support their child/ren learning from home as needed. Parents should expect to provide more support for kindergarten or primary-aged children as their independent skills are not usually as developed as that of older students
Our IT department has created a Parent Tip Sheet, a collection of resources for troubleshooting technology at home. Other highlights of Remote Learning include:
  • Elementary students who choose to learn from home will participate in the same courses they would be taking at school but through the online classroom.
  • Secondary students will be enrolled in two elearning courses with the assistance of their Guidance department and the virtual school staff.
  • Students will be expected to log in to the online classes every day – attendance will be taken daily  - and be engaged in the learning activities.
  • Students will engage in a combination of asynchronous or synchronous remote learning and independent study to achieve the expectations of the course.
  • Students will be provided with daily learning through a variety of tasks and resources online. There will be opportunities for frequent, live contact with their teachers while also learning independently, 225 daily minutes of synchronous learning Grades 1 to 12 and 180 daily minutes for kindergarten. 
  • Schools will assess whether students need access to a device or internet and take steps to distribute school resources to ensure students can stay connected, wherever possible, to learning.
For elementary, teachers other than the regular classroom teacher will be assigned to teach these students in virtual classes. For secondary, courses will be taught through the board’s elearning platform, with an elearning teacher assigned to teach the class. Students will not be able to immediately transfer between remote and in-person learning as changes in enrollment will impact staffing and class sizes. UPDATED - If students and parents (both elementary and secondary) wish to move from in-person attendance to online learning, or from online learning to in-person attendance, it will only be possible at one of the three re-entry points - November 12, February 2, or April 22. UPDATED - Parents/Guardians will be asked to notify the school of their intent to change three weeks prior to the transition date.  Parents/guardians will be provided a registration link on Thursday, Aug. 13 and asked to inform the Board if they intend to send their child to school or enrol in the remote learning program for the beginning of September.

Health and Wellbeing and Safe Facilities

It will be impossible to eliminate all risk associated with COVID-19 as students and staff return to schools, but based on the direction of the Government of Ontario and in consultation with the three health units in our jurisdiction, PVNC Catholic schools will be employing the following strategies to make schools as safe as possible.

NEW The provincial government has launched a new daily COVID-19 self-assessment tool for students, parents, and school staff.

Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington (PVNC) Catholic District School Board is asking all students and school staff to use this new self-assessment tool each day before attending school. Parents/guardians can fill it out on behalf of a student.

Link: https://covid-19.ontario.ca/school-screening/

  • All staff and students must self-screen every day before attending school.
  • All staff and students who are experiencing new or worsening symptoms of illness must not attend school and should seek appropriate medical attention as required, including getting tested at a COVID-19 testing centre.
  • UPDATED Staff and students feeling sick must remain at home for the duration of the time they are feeling ill and for 24  hours after symptoms have disappeared.
  • Staff and students awaiting test results should wait at home until test results have been received.
  • All schools are implementing Pandemic Cleaning protocols to support healthy, safe school facilities.
  • Pandemic Cleaning Mode includes the increased cleaning and disinfecting of all high touch surfaces in schools - two times per day.
  • High touch surfaces include: washrooms (e.g. toilet fixtures, faucets), eating areas (e.g. tables, sinks, countertops), doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, touch screens, push buttons, handrails, computers, photocopiers, and other equipment.
  • Classrooms used for Before and After School Child Care Programs will be cleaned before a new group comes in to use the room.
In addition, we are taking the following steps:
  • Using electrostatic disinfectant sprayers;
  • Increasing the number of custodians to ensure high priority cleaning takes place; and
  • Maintaining open, ongoing communication with public health officials.
At the end of each school day, an afternoon shift of custodial workers will come in to thoroughly clean schools to ensure a safe environment for students the next day.
  • Appropriate hand hygiene is one of the most important protective strategies. Schools will continue to train students on appropriate hand hygiene, including the use of alcohol-based hand rub, and to reinforce its use.
  • Schools will provide hand washing or hand sanitizing stations in every classroom when there is not a classroom sink available.
  • Students in Grade 4 to 12 will be required to wear non-medical masks while in school.
  • UPDATED Students are to bring their own non-medical masks from home to wear at school. Schools will have extra non-medical masks to provide students who have lost or soiled their masks.
  • Students in Kindergarten to Grade 3 will be strongly encouraged but not required to wear masks in common indoor spaces.
  • Medical masks and eye protection (i.e. face shield) will be provided for all teachers and other staff of school boards. All school-based staff will be required to wear masks, with reasonable exceptions for medical conditions. A mask exemption form for staff or students who require a medical exemption can be requested from the principal.
  • An elementary student should be cohorted with their classmates and their homeroom teacher, with limited contact with other students up to approximately 50, and limited contact with other subject teachers for classes such as French as a second language, the arts and physical education.
  • A secondary student should be limited to approximately 100 student contacts.
  • As much distancing as possible between students, between students and staff and between staff members should always be promoted.
  • Signage in hallways and common spaces will provide directions and guidelines for all staff and students.
  • Schools will attempt to remove unnecessary furniture and place desks with as much distancing as possible, and to allow teachers as much teaching space as possible. Desks should face forward rather than in circles or groupings.
  • Schools are encouraged to locate larger classes in larger spaces and to use all available space in a school, including gyms and libraries.
  • Drinking fountains will be closed except for the purpose of filling water bottles. Students should bring a reusable water bottle to school each day.
  • Breaks will be staggered to reduce the number of students in the halls at one time. Common areas will only be utilized by students with teacher/staff supervision ensuring physical distancing guidelines are followed.
  • Large gatherings and assemblies will be cancelled for the immediate future. This includes gathering spaces such as cafeterias.
  • Staff will be present to monitor physical distancing by students.
  • Schools will communicate directly with families about drop-off, pick-up and other protocols that are school-specific.
  • In the upcoming school year, schools will significantly limit visitors except for those in emergency circumstances and for those who have pre-arranged appointments, including parents.
  • If parents need to visit the school, they will be asked to make an appointment and follow appropriate protocol for entering the school: visitors must wear a medical mask, sanitize their hands upon entry into the building, sign in at the office, and practice physical distancing and complete the COVID-19 self assessment before coming to the school.
Active forms of travel (e.g., walking and cycling) and private transportation by parents and caregivers, are being encouraged to ease pressure on transportation demand. Our transportation consortium Student Transportation Services of Central Ontario (STSCO) and our transportation partners at Trillium Lakelands District School Board (for Kawartha Lakes students) are implementing enhanced cleaning protocols. School bus drivers and monitors will be provided with PPE and the same classroom mask protocol for students will apply on buses.
  • Buses will be cleaned twice per day with a focus on all high touch surfaces.
  • Bus drivers and students will wear masks and sanitize their hands before boarding the bus. Students in
  • Grades 4 and up will be required to wear non-medical face masks while on the bus, while students in
  • Kindergarten to Grade 3 will be strongly encouraged, but not required, to wear masks on the bus.
  • STSCO and Trillium Lakelands Transportation will attempt to assign seating in a way that keeps siblings and same classroom students sitting together. Assigned seating will also support contact tracing. Students must stay in their assigned seat at all times.

Illness Protocols

UPDATED Operational guidance: COVID-19 management protocol in schools

Detailed information about how schools and public health will deal with students/staff who become ill can be found in the Government of Ontario’s Operational Guidance: COVID-19 Management in Schools document.

Supports for Students

PVNC recognizes the unique challenges experienced by students with special education needs during this time, and that additional supports will be required to help these students learn and thrive as schools reopen. Guidance to support students with special education needs should include:
  • Considering changes in the school environment and/or remote learning needs when reviewing and updating Individual Education Plans (IEPs).
  • Considering additional planning and transition time for students with special education needs to support a smoother transition to school.
  • Safely supporting the return of medically fragile students by consulting with local public health authorities on options for personal protective equipment (PPE), staff training, and potential continued remote learning options.
  • Accommodating the needs of students who require significant personal support, including considering options for personal protective equipment for both staff and students.
  • Providing guidance relating to assistive technology.
  • Considering alternate attendance options for students depending on their needs.
  • Working with partners to develop local protocols for the access of non-school based providers, such as rehabilitation therapists and nursing staff, and supporting remote delivery of these services if in-school delivery is not possible.
Student mental health and well-being will be a core element of the re-entry to school plan. It is foundational in ensuring a return to a welcoming environment that supports learning.
  • Supports for student mental health and well-being will include the following components:
  • Professional learning for system leaders, educators and mental health professionals to support the approach to school re-entry, as well as throughout the school year.
  • A tiered approach for mental health supports that will capture all students and target intensive help to those who have been most affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • Collaboration with child and youth mental health agencies to support stronger connections and make the best use of mental health resources and supports across the integrated system of care.
  • Increased social work and support staff available for schools.

Ongoing Communication

For many families, we understand that this document is only a first step. There will be many more questions and concerns that will need to be addressed moving forward and we are committed to providing families with timely, accurate and up-to-date information as we all navigate this situation together.

Please check back to our website regularly for new updates and follow us on Twitter (@PVNCCDSB) for the latest updates.

Additional COVID-19 Resources

Travel Advice and Advisories

Ministry of Health

Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit

Peterborough Public Health

Durham Public Health