RETURN TO SCHOOL: Ontario Releases Plan for Safe Reopening of Schools in September

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Updated July 30, 2020

Dear PVNC Parents and Guardians:

We wanted to provide an update on our continued planning for the upcoming school year. We know that parents are concerned for their children’s continued learning, and are eager for further clarity on what programming for students will look like this September. 

Today, the provincial government announced that Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington (PVNC) Catholic District School Board is among a group of school boards that are to implement a full-time 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 in September.

At PVNC, our return to school planning is focussed on safeguarding the health and wellbeing of students, staff and the community using the best available guidance from Public Health. Based on today’s announcement we will continue to refine and finalize our return to school plans.  

Parents will make decisions regarding in-person attendance for children for this school year and will have the option of remote learning delivered by PVNC.  In mid-August, when we share our complete plan for reopening, PVNC parents will be asked to declare their intention to send their children to school in person or to keep them home and have them enrolled in the PVNC online learning program. If you choose to keep your child at home and be enrolled in the online learning program, re-entry to in-person attendance dates will be posted at a later time.

Here is what we can share right now, based on the latest guidance from the provincial government: 

Multiple strategies will be employed to ensure schools are healthy and safe environments for students and staff, including: 

Self screening 

  • 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.

Hand hygiene 

  • 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.

Masking 

  • Students in Grade 4 to 12 will be required to wear non-medical or cloth masks while in school. Cloth masks will be provided for students and will need to be cleaned/maintained at home.
  • Students in Kindergarten to Grade 3 will be encouraged but not required to wear masks in common 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.

Cohorting 

  • An elementary student should be cohorted with their classmates and their homeroom teacher, with limited contact with other subject teachers for classes such as French as a second language/Anglais, the arts and physical education.
  • A secondary student should be limited to approximately 100 student contacts.

Distancing 

  • As much distancing as possible between students, between students and staff and between staff members should always be promoted. 
  • Schools are encouraged 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.

Limiting visitors in schools 

  • In the upcoming school year, schools will significantly limit visitors except for those in emergency circumstances and for those who have pre-arranged visits, including parents.

School Health Monitoring System – A new school health monitoring system will be established through a partnership between the Ministries of Health and Education, school boards and local public health to monitor and respond to reports of COVID-19 symptoms. The Ministry is also working with public health officials to ensure a supply of public health nurses to assist schools across the province, including assistance with screening of potential cases of COVID-19. A COVID-19 protocol and communication plan is being developed and will be shared. 

Special Education –  The safe return of medically fragile students will be supported by consulting with local public health authorities on options for personal protective equipment, staff training, and potential continued remote learning where return is not possible. 

Learn at Home – To ensure students and families are supported and respected in making decisions that work best for them, in-person school attendance will be optional for the 2020/21 school year. If not attending in-person, students will be expected to attend school remotely. Remote learning options will be available for all students on a full-time enhanced distant/remote learning basis with access to learning materials posted online to support both synchronous and asynchronous learning opportunities during the day.

Mental Health – Mental health and well-being are core elements of the school reopening plan. Professional learning will be provided for system leaders, educators and mental health professionals to support the approach to school re-entry, as well as throughout the school year.

Transportation – 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. To the extent that physical distancing may not be possible, the use of non-medical masks for students in Grades 4 to 12 will be required on school vehicles. Students in Kindergarten to Grade 3 will be encouraged but not required to wear masks on student transportation. Exceptions should be made for students with medical conditions or special needs that prevent masking.

Now that we have confirmation on the model for school start-up, we can finalize our planning for the return of students. We will share this important information with families in the coming weeks to support a successful transition back to school.

The government also announced $309 million in new funding for a range of investments, including: 

  • Up to 500 public health nurses, phased in, to assist schools and boards in local health protocols
  • Masks and personal protective equipment
  • Additional teaching positions
  • Additional school custodians and enhanced cleaning supplies
  • Cleaning for school buses and personal protective equipment for bus drivers
  • Additional supports for students with special education needs
  • Additional health and safety training for school-based staff
  • Increased funding for mental health supports
  • Funding for testing

Please see the news release from the Ministry of Education here for the full announcement.

Parents should also note that a revised PVNC school calendar for 2020-2021 has been approved and posted to our website. Please note the following dates: 

  • First day of classes – Tuesday, September 8, 2020
  • Last day of classes – Tuesday, June 29, 2021
  • Christmas Holiday – Monday, December 21, 2020 to Friday, January 1, 2021. Classes resume on Monday, January 4, 2021.
  • Board Holiday – Friday, March 12
  • March Break – Monday, March 15 to Friday, March 19, 2021.

Earlier this month we collected valuable feedback through our Thoughtexchange Family Survey. More than 6,300 participants took part sharing more than 7,300 insights. In addition to providing ideas and opinions on how to safely reopen schools, families shared their experiences about how challenging this period of school closures has been and emphasized apprehension for what September will look like.

Understanding this, it is our goal to give parents as much notice as possible to make plans for their families this fall. We will provide further information home as soon as possible to allow parents to complete their planning.

Please continue to practice physical distancing and follow the guidance from your local health unit. 

Be well and God Bless.

 

Michael Nasello
Director of Education