Updated as of Sept. 15, 2020
Virtual Learning school announced, staggered start times for the 2020-2021 school year
Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington (PVNC) Catholic District School Board is pleased to announce the launch of 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. All virtual learners in the Board will be enrolled in the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Virtual School.
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.
NEW Adjustment to synchronous (real-time) virtual learning schedule between Sept 14-25
We have become aware of a number of issues with the rollout of our virtual school that we will need to address in order to be able to continue successfully. As a result, we will be adjusting the synchronous (real-time) learning time for all virtual classes for the next two weeks, from Monday, September 14 through Friday, September 25. The teachers will be engaged in synchronous learning on those days from 8:30am to 11:30 am. The remainder of the day will be devoted to asynchronous learning, composed of activities and assignments given to the students by the teachers in the morning.
We realize this may be an inconvenience to some parents/guardians, but it is necessary so that we can continue the technical, organizational, and training work that needs to be done to continue the year with our students in the virtual school. In the context of school reopening, we understand that in some school boards, the start up of the virtual classrooms will not begin at all until after mid-September.
We know parents/guardians continue to have questions about virtual learning and we have created a dedicated telephone number for all virtual school inquiries at: 705-878-9794. We are also compiling the list of those who need technology to access the virtual classroom and will be in touch with those families very soon with more information.
We appreciate your understanding and patience and look forward to having all of our programs running at full capacity in the very near future.
Q. My child does not attend St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Secondary School in Lindsay, so why are they enrolled in the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Virtual School?
A. All virtual learners in PVNC, no matter what their home school is, will attend the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Virtual School.
UPDATED COVID-19 Symptoms and Contact Tracing
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.
NEW Province launches new screening tool for schools
Q. What is considered an outbreak at school?
A . An outbreak in a school is defined as two or more lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in students and/or staff in a school with an epidemiological link, within a 14-day period, where at least one case could have reasonably acquired their infection in the school (including transportation and/or before and after school care).
The local public health unit will work with the school to determine epidemiological links (e.g., cases in the same class, cases that are part of the same before/after school care cohort, cases that have assigned bus seats in close proximity to each other). The PHU will determine which cohorts are high risk contacts requiring isolation and testing.
Q. Should I have my child tested for COVD-19 before they go back to school?
A. Testing your child before returning to school is generally not recommended if they do not have COVID-19 symptoms.
Q. What if a student shows symptoms at school?
A. Parents/guardians will be asked to pick up the child from school immediately. The student will be isolated in a separate room or kept at least two metres away from others. If a student requires supervision or assistance a staff member will wear PPE and remain with them until they can be picked up. Parents/guardians should ensure the school has their most up-to-date contact information, as well as their emergency contact.
While an individual suspected to have COVID-19 is waiting for test results they must be in isolation and cannot attend school in person. The individual can attend school virtually if they feel well enough to participate. Where a student or staff member has tested positive for COVID-19, Public Health will be in contact to provide further direction on returning to school. If there are other siblings or members of the household that attend school or childcare centres, advice of the health care provider should be followed on returning to school.
Individuals who have had a COVID-19 test because of symptoms, but who test negative should not return to school until at least 24 hours after their symptoms have resolved.
Q. What if there is a positive COVID-19 case at school?
A. Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 will be contacted by Public Health and advised that they must self-isolate for 14 days from when their symptoms first started, and until clearance has been received from Public Health. Retesting is not recommended and will not alter this 14 day isolation requirement.
Public Health will conduct contact tracing and identify and follow up with all close contacts. To help with contact tracing, the school will provide Public Health with records including attendance, seating charts, bus cohorts, and any approved visitors to the school, including supply/occasional teachers or custodians.
- Classroom cohorts (students and staff affiliated with the cohort) will generally be considered at high risk of exposure.
- All students and staff determined to be close contacts may be directed to isolate and recommended to be tested (voluntary testing) within their isolation period.
- Negative test results do not change the requirement for isolation nor do they shorten the isolation period for close contacts.
If someone from a school setting tests positive for COVID-19 and your child is not deemed to be a close contact, you do not need to have your child tested or keep them home.
Q. What if a parent/guardian tests positive for COVID-19?
A. If a parent receives a positive test for COVID-19, he or she is not obligated to inform the school of their test result. However, it is strongly recommended.
Children in a household where a parent or other member has tested positive should stay home and isolate for 14 days.
Q. Will PVNC have a staggered entry for students?
Q. I missed the deadline for the PVNC Return to School Registration Form. What do I do now?
A. As of Aug. 31, parents are to contact their child’s school. Please note, our schools are currently responding to a high-volume of parent inquiries. It may take longer than normal to receive a response. As of Sept. 2, parents/guardians can no longer switch their intentions from in-school to virtual or from virtual to in-school as we need time to organize schools and staffing.
Q. Will students be able to switch between in-person and remote learning? / If we choose to send our child(ren) to school but change our minds before the school year starts can they do online learning?
A. To effectively plan for the return to school across the district for 15,000 students, students will not be able to immediately transfer between remote and in-person learning as changes in enrollment will impact staffing and class sizes. Moving between remote and in-person learning may take place at the end of an instructional period.
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.
Parents/Guardians will be asked to notify the school of their intent to change three weeks prior to the transition date.
Q. When will class sizes, timetables, and teacher assignments be provided to students and parents/guardians?
A. Re-timetabling and making any necessary staffing adjustments will begin after we receive the results of our registration survey, which ends Aug. 20. Parents and Guardians can anticipate more information in the week before school about their child’s classes. We appreciate that this may be frustrating for families, however, we can’t start the process until we know how many families will be opting for remote learning.
Q. How will nutrition breaks work during the school day?
A. Students will remain in their classrooms to eat lunch. They will remove their masks to eat and drink, and remain with their cohort for that time.
Q. How will schools deal with students sent home due to illness or symptoms?
A. We will follow normal procedures when a child is ill and public health guidelines. Teachers will work with students to send work home as appropriate and use Google classroom to post work.
Q. What will drop offs look like at elementary school?
A. Parents will be able to drop off children but will not be able to enter the school building in the interest and safety of all. Drop off times may differ than those in the past depending on school bells times. All school parking lots and kiss n rides will be closed at least 15 minutes prior to bell time to allow school buses to load and unload students. This will also enhance pedestrian safety around the school sites. Parents are encouraged to park at a distance to the school and have their child walk to the school (accompanied if necessary) to reduce vehicular traffic around school.
If possible, families are encouraged to use active forms of travel (e.g., walking and cycling) to school. Schools will communicate school-specific instructions about drop-off routines with families.
Q. Will hands-on courses in areas like technological education (woodworking, auto body, metalworking, etc.). be provided in an online format?
A. As many courses as possible will be offered to students based on collective student interest and qualifications of teachers. Similar to other provincial online course platforms, some specialty hands-on courses may not be available in the virtual classroom. Technological studies will not be offered in the online format.
Q. What happens to Specialized High Skills Major Program and OYAP courses?
A. Specialist High Skills Majors and Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Programs are key programs to support student pathway planning. At this time, we continue to collaborate with our program partners and educators to determine the logistics of running each individual program. More information will be forthcoming.
Q. Will cooperative education/work education placements be taking place?
A. Work experiences may resume as long as the risk of infection is mitigated by all participants. When on work placements, students will follow industry requirements for the field of study. In-person classes will follow standard cohorting guidelines. More information will follow.
Q. Will secondary students be required to fulfill community service/volunteering hours? If so, how will this be done safely?
A. The Ministry of Education has directed school boards that secondary students are still required to complete the 40 hours of community service. Community service hours can be completed through various online opportunities.
Q. If students choose at-home remote learning, will they be part of their school community or will they be in a “new” online school?
A: For elementary students, teachers other than the regular classroom teacher will be assigned to teach these students in virtual classes. For secondary students, courses will be taught through the board’s elearning platform, with an elearning teacher assigned to teach the class.
Q: What are the expectations for at-home remote learners?
A: Students who decide to learn from home will be engaged in remote learning five days per week.
- Students will be expected to log in to the online classes every day – attendance will be taken daily for elementary students – and be engaged in the learning activities.
- Students will engage in a combination of asynchronous and synchronous remote learning and independent study to achieve the expectations of the course.
- 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.
- Students will be provided with daily learning through a variety of tasks and resources online.
Q: Will students be provided technology from school for their work if they choose at-home remote learning?
A: As was the case during school closures during the last school year, families who have access to technology at home may be asked to use their own devices. 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.
Q: Will at-home remote learners be learning the same curriculum as those who are in school?
A: Yes, the same curriculum will be taught and the same amount of time learning each day will be expected.
Q: How do families participate in at-home remote learning if access to the internet is not possible?
A: 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.
Q. How will orientation be delivered to assist students upon their return to online/in-person school?
A. School administration and classroom educators will be communicating with families and students in preparation for the start of the school year. Educators will be providing orientation to students during the initial weeks of school to support students with transition as required. Attention will be placed on the individual needs of each student. We will work with families on a case by case basis who require differentiated support on their transition.
Q. What platform will be used to deliver online learning and what is required of parents to support students from home during their courses?
A. At the elementary level, online learning 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.
At the secondary level, secondary students will be enrolled in the school’s e-learning course platforms with the assistance of their Guidance department.
Our IT department has created a Parent Tip Sheet, a collection of resources for troubleshooting technology at home.
Q. How will in-person kindergarten be structured to ensure physical distancing between students?
A. Learning opportunities throughout the day will be set up to encourage a one metre distancing between children where possible. Educators will continue to use the indoor and outdoor learning environments throughout the day to promote physical distancing between children, exercise, and fresh air.
Q. Will play based learning be included, given that toys and other high touch objects won’t be used?
A. Yes, play-based learning will continue to be a fundamental aspect of the Kindergarten program. Educators will continue to use materials that promote play-based learning that can be easily cleaned where possible. Hand washing will also be encouraged when children transition between learning opportunities.
Q. What will the online-kindergarten course structure and daily content look like?
A. The online kindergarten program will be structured with real-time and flex-time opportunities that are age appropriate. The program will be driven by the Kindergarten program and place focus on the four learning frames: demonstrating math and literacy behaviours, belonging and contributing, self-regulation and well-being, and problem-solving and innovating. Students will have daily real-time interaction for approximately 150 minutes per day with the Kindergarten Educator Team to support their learning and development.
Enhanced Health and Safety Procedures
Q. We are hearing a lot about ventilation and HVAC systems in schools. What is the Board doing to ensure these systems are as effective as possible?
We are ensuring that all existing HVAC systems are working as designed and adjusting our building automation systems to bring in additional fresh/outside air as much as possible. Filters will be monitored and changed on a more frequent basis to ensure optimal operation.
Q. What about children of parents who have to travel internationally for work, such as long-haul truckers and airline pilots?
A. Certain individuals who travel internationally for work – such as airline pilots and long-haul truckers – are exempt from the mandatory quarantine when entering Canada because their work is defined as essential under the order of Quarantine Act. Exemptions are reviewed at the border by a border services officer and do not apply to anyone who has signs of symptoms of COVID (those individuals, if ill, would not be granted access back into Canada).
Their children are required to self-isolate only if their parent has travelled outside Canada in the previous 14 days AND is ill with COVID-19 symptoms. Therefore, students of parents who travel internationally and who have been exempted from the Quarantine Act may attend school as long as their parents are healthy and have no symptoms of COVID-19.
More information on essential workers who are exempt from mandatory quarantine is available from the Government of Canada, here: https://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/ntnl-scrt/crtcl-nfrstrctr/esf-sfe-en.aspx
Q. For students with allergies, will alcohol-free sanitizers and cleansers be used?
A. For classrooms without a handwashing sink, students who are allergic to alcohol-based hand sanitizers will be provided accommodations to use handwashing sinks outside of their classroom.
Q. How will students and staff maintain clean hands throughout the school day?
A. 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 will continue to be educated on proper cough and sneeze etiquette and to avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth.
Q. What measures are being put in place to support safety in common areas?
A. PVNC has developed strategies that support general safety in common areas. Here are examples:
- Weather permitting, schools will use outdoor space whenever possible for various activities such as breaks and regular classroom activities
- Assemblies and other large gatherings will be postponed for the foreseeable future, until further notification.
- 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.
Q. What is PVNC doing to clean schools?
- 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.
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.
Q. What if I need to drop something off for my child during the school day or talk to my child’s teacher? How do I do those things with the new safety provisions?
A. Visits to the school and child care centres will be by appointment only. Wherever possible, telephone meetings with parents/guardians will be held. If you need to get in touch with someone at the school, please call or email your child’s school. Unscheduled visitors and family members of child(ren) will not likely be able to enter the location.
Q. Will staff, students, and visitors be screened before entering a school? How will that work?
- All staff and students must self-screen every day before attending school.
- All staff and students who are experiencing new or worsening symptoms consistent with COVID-19 must not attend school and should seek appropriate medical attention as required, including getting tested at a COVID-19 testing centre.
- 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.
- Signs will be posted at entrances to the school to remind students, staff, parents/guardians, and essential visitors with information on health and safety policies.
Q. Will students be required to wear a mask in school?
A. Students in Grade 4 to 12 will be required to wear non-medical masks while in school. Students in Kindergarten to Grade 3 will be encouraged, but not required to wear masks.
Q. Will masks be provided to students?
A. 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.
Q. What if my child has a medical reason and cannot wear a mask?
A. Students in Grades 4 to 12 are expected to wear a non-medical mask during in-person instruction. If a student requires alternate arrangements or requires an accommodation to this expectation, families should connect with the school principal. A mask exemption form is available upon request.
Q. Will students participate in music, physical education classes and organized sports teams?
A. Subject teachers will work with departments to implement adjustments to meet health and safety requirements. Delivery of curriculum may look very different in some areas. More information will be forthcoming, but physical education and music will be part of the school experience. Due to the health and safety restrictions at this time, organized sports teams and sporting events are not permitted. Large gatherings and assemblies will not occur until provincial direction is given.
Q. Will students be able to use their lockers?
A. 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.
Q. For students who are hearing or vision impaired, what measures are being taken to ensure they can fully participate in course activities?
A. We appreciate that mask-wearing as a requirement in schools during this time of transition will pose unique challenges for students with vision and hearing impairment. Currently, we are working to purchase clear visors with aprons that will allow for lip reading and FM systems in classrooms to support students who are hard of hearing.
Q. How will the PVNC be accommodating students with special needs?
A. 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 where return is not possible.
- 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 where in-school delivery is not possible.
Q. Our family qualifies for busing. Will my child or teen have to take the bus to and from school?
A. Families can choose whether or not to have their students ride the bus. For students who qualify for bus transportation, parents will be able to have their children opt out of taking the bus. More information on this is available on the Student Transportation Services of Central Ontario (STSCO), website – www.stsco.ca
Q. How do you plan on cleaning and sterilizing the buses every day?
A. STSCO and Trillium Lakelands Transportation, which oversees busing of PVNC students, will be adhering to federal and provincial requirements closely, ensuring all bus operators are fully aware of, and follow, the enhanced cleaning protocols for buses, as directed by the federal government at https://www2.tc.gc.ca/en/services/road/federal-guidance-school-bus-operations-during-covid-19-pandemic.html. Buses will be cleaned twice per day with a focus on all high touch surfaces, such as handrails and seats. Bus drivers and monitors will be provided with PPE, wear masks and wash and/or sanitize their hands before boarding the bus.
Q. What other steps will be taken for the protection of students on the buses?
The following steps will help to protect students while riding buses:
- The same mask requirements that apply to schools will apply on the buses. Students in Grades 4 and up will be required to wear non-medical masks while on the bus, while students in
- Kindergarten to Grade 3 will be strongly encouraged to wear non-medical masks. A supply of masks should be available on each bus in the event a student does not have one or a parent is required to board to support a student with special needs.
- Seating will be assigned to keep students from the same household together, and students from the same classroom together, where possible.
- All students will load the bus from back to front when being picked up and unload from front to back when being dropped off. This will limit close contact between students on the bus.
- Students are encouraged to walk to their seat without touching seats as they pass as much as possible. Students must follow the instructions given to them from the bus driver and sit in the seat assigned to them. Students may not change seats at any time during the bus trip.
- Students who have symptoms associated with COVID-19 or think they have been exposed to COVID-19 will not be allowed to take school transportation. Parents must screen their child for any symptoms prior to sending them to board the bus. If a child is displaying symptoms such as coughing, fever or other obvious signs of an illness, they will not be allowed to board the bus.
- The bus driver will inform the parent/guardian, if they are with the child, that the child cannot ride. If there is no parent/guardian, with the child, the driver will contact dispatch to advise the family that the child cannot be transported. If a child gets sick at school or exhibits symptoms they will not be transported on the bus after school.
- It is recommended that all students and parents maintain a two-meter physical distance while waiting at the bus stop. Students should be reminded to wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds before they leave for the bus stop or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer just before boarding the bus.
- Students cannot bring large items on the bus that would not ordinarily fit in a knapsack. Students may not eat or drink on the bus.
- Before school starts, families of bussed students will receive information on their bus schedule, bus stops, and entry and exit procedures.
Q. How many students will be on my child’s or teen’s bus?
A. We will not know how many students will be on the buses until we receive confirmation from parents that they plan to have their child use bus transportation.
Q. How will seating be assigned on the bus?
A. Seat assignments for students will be mandatory. To limit the physical contact between students, the number of students to be transported on a bus will be limited to one family per bench seat to a maximum of three to a seat. Single child families will be grouped together with classmates where possible. The front two seats will remain empty and be used for emergency purposes where possible.
Q. If we switch our children from at-home to in-class learning, or we change our minds about opting out of bus transportation, how will we get our children on the bus again?
A. Eligible families will be able to apply online to STSCO before their children can ride the bus again. It may take some time, however, for changes to bus transportation to take place, given the complexities of arranging busing for thousands of students across thousands of kilometres every day.
Q. Can parents and/or staff board buses to help students with special needs?
A. Parents and school staff may need to board the vehicle to assist with a student’s seat belt/harness or car seat. They should always wear a mask and eye protection (shield) when boarding the vehicle. Upon boarding the vehicle, prior to touching anything, the parent will need to sanitize their hands. There will be sanitizer available on the vehicle. They should not touch anything except the seatbelt/harness (i.e. do not touch seats when going down the aisle of a bus).
Q. Will child care centres be open?
A. Child care centres are permitted to be open. Please check with your child care provider for more information about their re-opening details.
Q. Are PVNC offices opening in September?
A. Yes, staff will return to their offices on August 31.
Q. Will I be able to book school space through a Community Use of Schools Permit?
NEW A. All community use of school permits for October will be canceled. Permits moving forward will be approved on a month-by-month basis.
Return to School Community Question Form
We know that parents/guardians and students will continue to have Return to School questions that may not be answered above. Please use the form below to submit questions or concerns, which will be reviewed by Board staff. Questions and answers that are relevant to a broad range of families may be added to the FAQ above.
Please note, as of Aug. 31, our schools have reopened. Please contact your child’s school for school-specific concerns. Please note, our schools are currently responding to a high-volume of parent inquiries. It may take longer than normal to receive a response.