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Return to School Guidelines 2021-2022

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INTRODUCTION

The WECDSB Return to School Guidelines have been developed based upon the direction issued by the Ministry of Education Operational Guidance for Schools, 2021-2022 as approved by the Chief Medical Officer of Health. These Return to School Guidelines will be reevaluated regularly and where required updated based on Public Health advice throughout the 2021-2022 school year.


MENTAL HEALTH AND STUDENT SUPPORTS

Student mental health and well-being is a top priority, as good mental health is fundamental to a student’s ability to learn and to succeed at school and in life.  A tiered approach is in place to support all students and targeted intensive help is available to those most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Collaboration will continue with child and youth mental health agencies to support strong connections for students requiring more intensive support.

Educators will focus on the support of students with special education needs as schools reopen. Transition plans, with parent consultation, will be established to facilitate a smooth transition back to school for students with complex needs.


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ELEMENTARY

Elementary schools will reopen with conventional in-person delivery of learning, with enhanced health and safety protocols.

Elementary school students in kindergarten through Grade 8 will attend school five days per week, with 300 minutes of instruction per day, remaining in one cohort for the full day. Cohorted classes will stay together and with one teacher, where possible. Students may be placed into small groups (for example special education support, English-language learning) with students from other cohorts.

Students may use common spaces (for example, cafeterias, libraries) with physical distancing encouraged. Members of different cohorts can interact for small group learning with all safety measures in place. Specialized education staff and teachers, such as French teachers, education support staff (for example, education assistants) are permitted to go into classrooms, and multiple schools to provide the full breadth of programming for students.

Beginning September 2nd, all families will be notified of their child’s teacher as well as information regarding first day procedures.  This information will include the designated entrance door in which to use in the morning.  Families will receive this information through the student’s mytools2go email account.

For Junior Kindergarten (JK) and all new students to the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board, school staff will contact each family to convey this information.  Information will also be posted on each school’s website.


SECONDARY

Secondary schools will provide daily in-person learning for the full duration of the school day (five instructional hours).

We will be returning to a four-course semester model, but with only two periods a day. Each day will  consist of two 150-minute periods as well as a 40-minute lunch period. 

Students will attend periods 1 and 2 in week one, followed by periods 3 and 4 in week two. Regular start and end times for the day will be followed. This alternating week schedule will be in effect for the entire first semester. 

Grade 9 students will receive their schedules via the student’s mytools2go email account prior to their scheduled Orientation Day.  This will be communicated by each school.

Students in grades 10-12 will receive their schedules via the student’s mytools2go email account beginning September 3, 2021. First day procedures will be communicated to students and parents/guardians by school administration through the student’s mytools2go account and/or school messenger during the week of August 30, 2021.  At that time, information will also be provided on each school’s website.


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REMOTE LEARNING

Remote learning remains an option for elementary and secondary students. 

Students from Junior/Senior Kindergarten to Grade 8 engaged in remote learning will be placed in virtual classes and follow a traditional school timetable that will be communicated to parents. In accordance with PPM 164, students will be engaged in 300 minutes of learning per day. Remote learning for JK/SK consists of 180 minutes of synchronous instruction each day. Grades 1-8 remote learning consists of 225 minutes of synchronous instruction and 75 minutes of asynchronous activities.

Secondary students who choose remote learning will access their classes via webcam in a hybrid model. Secondary school classes will consist of both in-person students and remote learners. Students will be engaged in both synchronous and asynchronous activities through the Google Classroom platform. 

At the secondary level, we will be returning to a four-course semester model, but with only two periods a day. Each day will consist of two 150-minute periods as well as a 40-minute lunch period. Students will be engaged in  periods 1 and 2 in week one, followed by periods 3 and 4 in week two. Regular start and end times for the day will be followed. This alternating week schedule will be in effect for the entire first semester. 

All students engaged in remote learning will have access to supports as required.

Students are expected to log in everyday and utilize the Google Classroom platform.


PROTECTIVE STRATEGIES

Protecting the health and safety of our students and staff is of the utmost importance. Multiple protective strategies and a layering of controls will be implemented. There is not one specific measure that will prevent transmission from occurring in schools, but rather there are multiple structural and individual elements that contribute to making schools healthier spaces and reduce the risk of infection to in-person attendees. 


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SCREENING

All staff and students must self-screen every day before attending school utilizing the COVID-19 school and child care screening for schools.  All staff and students who are experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19 as identified in the screening tool, must not attend school and should follow the guidance provided in the screening tool, which may include seeking appropriate medical attention as required, and/or getting tested for COVID-19. 

Elementary
Revised Oct. 13, 2021

Parents and guardians of elementary school children are required to assess their children daily for signs of illness using the above mentioned provincial screening tool.

As at September 7, 2021, for the first two weeks of school, parents of elementary students are required to provide on-site confirmation of screening for their child upon arrival at school. Each morning, students are required to return hard copy documentation of their confirmation of their screening. Students will receive a hard copy of the self-screening document on Tuesday, September 7 and every day following until October 15, 2021.

Beginning October 18, 2021, each morning a reminder email is sent to every elementary student’s mytools2go email account prompting them to conduct and provide confirmation of self-screening.  Parents of elementary students are required to view their child’s mytools2go email account each morning and provide daily onsite confirmation of self-screening for their child prior to school.  A hard copy of the self-screening document will be made available for those families who require one.  Requests can be made to your child’s school.



Secondary

Secondary students are required to provide daily onsite confirmation of self-screening prior to or upon their arrival at school.  Each morning a reminder email is sent to every secondary student prompting them to conduct and provide confirmation of their self-screening.

Signs will be posted on entrances to schools reminding all individuals of screening requirements.


VISITORS

Only essential visitors will be allowed to enter the school or any of our community facilities (eg. Academies of WECDSB) and must do so by making pre-arranged appointments. 

Essential visitors to the school will be required to self screen, perform hand hygiene upon entering the building and wear a medical mask while on school premises.  

Any visitor that does not pass the screening procedures must not enter the building.
Parents/guardians will not be allowed to enter schools at this time, except in case of an emergency or a pre-arranged appointment. Communication between parents/guardians and teaching staff and/or administration will be through phone calls, email or video conferencing.

Signs will be posted on entrances to schools reminding students, staff and essential visitors of screening requirements.


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PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT FOR STAFF

Revised on Sept. 2, 2021

Required personal protective equipment (PPE) will continue to be provided to school staff which includes medical masks (surgical/procedural), eye protection and other PPE based on their specific role/job functions (for example, gloves, gowns).

At this time medical masks (surgical/procedural) and eye protection are required to be worn by school staff indoors in school, including in hallways and during classes. Medical masks (surgical/procedural) are required to be worn by school staff outdoors if two metres of distance from others cannot be maintained. Eye protection is also required if a staff member comes within two metres of an unmasked individual outdoors, as per occupational health and safety requirements.

Reasonable exceptions to the requirement for staff to wear masks will apply.  Staff that are not able to wear a mask for medical reasons are required to contact Human Resources to develop an appropriate accommodation plan pursuant to the Ontario Human Rights Code.

STUDENT MASKING


Students in Grades JK to 12 are required to wear properly fitted non-medical or cloth masks indoors in school, including in hallways and during classes. Students in Grades JK to 12 are also required to wear a non-medical or cloth mask on school buses according to the Windsor-Essex Student Transportation Service (WESTS) Protocol. 

Masks may be temporarily removed indoors to consume food or drink.

Students are not required to wear masks outdoors, but distancing will be encouraged as much as possible.

Parents/guardians are responsible for providing a non-medical or cloth mask for their child. A supply of non medical masks will be available at schools for those students who may require one. Students are expected to bring their own masks to wear on student transportation and at school.  

Students who seek an exemption from the mask requirements on the basis they are medically fragile or have pre-existing medical conditions must provide a doctor’s note affirming that wearing a face mask could exacerbate their condition and be harmful to them. In such cases the board shall provide reasonable and appropriate accommodations in accordance with the Ontario Human Rights Code. 
 
Schools will share information about those students who are exempt from having to wear a mask with Windsor-Essex Student Transportation Services so that bus operators will know which students are exempt.



HAND HYGIENE & RESPIRATORY ETIQUETTE

Appropriate hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette are among the most important protective strategies. Students will be provided with targeted, age-appropriate education in proper hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette. Educational materials can be found on the WECHU website. Wall mounted and/or freestanding hand sanitizer dispensers are available at entrances, exits and hallways. Parents/guardians are encouraged to send their children to school with personal hand sanitizer if possible. Age appropriate signage is displayed throughout the school to remind students and staff to perform hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette.


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DISTANCING & CONGREGATING

Physical distancing measures are layered with other public health measures such as screening, hand hygiene, cohorting, enhanced cleaning and masking.

As much distancing as possible between students, between students and staff and between staff members will be promoted. 

School staff will remove any unnecessary furniture from classrooms and arrange desks in such a way to encourage as much distance between students as possible. 


SCHOOL ARRIVAL & DEPARTURE

School arrival and departure procedures that support physical distancing where possible will be in place. 
Approaches may include:
  • maximizing the use of all possible entrances and exits to support the beginning and end of the school days
  • creating designated routes for student travel throughout the building
  • providing visual cues or physical guides, such as arrows or signs/posters on walls, to guide appropriate distances in lines/queues and at other times (for example, guides for creating “one-way routes” in hallways)

CLEANING & DISINFECTING STANDARDS & PROTOCOLS

Temporary cleaning staff will be assigned to schools and will be responsible solely for enhanced cleaning protocols which follow the guidelines of the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit. They will focus primarily on cleaning and disinfecting touch points throughout the day, with special emphasis on most often and commonly touched surfaces including fountains, door knobs, sinks and other horizontal surfaces. Items that cannot be easily cleaned and disinfected, such as area rugs and soft furnishings, will be removed from all areas of the school. Students and staff will also be encouraged to promote consistent and good cleaning practices.

Regular hand hygiene will be practiced to reduce the risk of infection related to high touch surfaces. 


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VENTILATION

Ventilation is a key element in the multiple protective strategies to support healthy and safe learning environments for students and staff.

For schools with full mechanical ventilation: 
  • All ventilation systems have undergone a thorough internal review to ensure they are operating properly and are in good working order prior to the start of the school year 
  • Highest-grade filters (MERV 13) will be utilized
  • Regular filter changes will take place through the school year
  • Ventilation systems will start 2 hours before the start of the school day and run for 2 hours after the end of the school day
  • HVAC systems will be adjusted for maximum air flow and increased fresh air

For schools without mechanical ventilation:
  • Standalone high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration units will be placed in all classrooms and learning environments
  • All JK/SK classrooms will have a HEPA filtration unit regardless of whether there is a mechanical HVAC system.
Schools will encourage outdoor education where possible and open windows to augment ventilation.


SHARED MATERIALS & SPACES

Shared materials are important for learning (for example, toys for imaginative play in kindergarten, manipulatives for math, computers and other tech materials, books, art supplies, indoor physical education equipment and shared outdoor equipment). The use of easily cleanable shared materials is permitted. The risk associated with transmission with shared objects is low. The focus will be on regular hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette to reduce the risk of infection related to shared equipment, particularly when regular cleaning of shared objects is not feasible. 

Shared rooms,(for group and individual use, for example, drop-in study time, etc.) and computer/technology labs, are permitted. Computers will be cleaned after individual student use.

Use of lockers/cubbies is permitted for individual use. When different cohorts interact in shared indoor spaces, masking and as much distancing as possible will be maintained between cohorts.


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CAFETERIA USE & LUNCH PROTOCOLS
Revised Sept. 3, 2021

Elementary Schools:

Students will take their two nutritional breaks or lunch break in their respective classrooms. The sharing of food is strictly prohibited. It is important that students come to school with their lunch/snacks. The practice of dropping off food at the office will not be allowed at this time. Students are encouraged to bring their own reusable refillable water bottle for personal use. Students may go home for lunch. For the schools on a balanced day schedule, students may go home during the second nutritional/activity break only. Please follow the procedures outlined at your child’s school. 


Nutrition/third party food programs and non-instructional food events (such as a pizza day) are permitted to operate, provided that food handlers use adequate food handling and safety practices. For the schools on a balanced day schedule, this will take place during the second nutritional/activity break only. 


Snack programs (eg. Ontario Student Nutrition Program) are permitted following proper safety procedures such as the use of “Grab & Go” format. Snack program volunteers are subject to all health protocols.

 

Middle Schools:


Students will remain in their classroom for lunch in order to facilitate appropriate cohorting procedures based on recommendations from the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit.


Snack programs (eg. Ontario Student Nutrition Program) are permitted following proper safety procedures such as the use of “Grab & Go” format. Snack program volunteers are subject to all health protocols.



Secondary Schools:
Revised Sept. 16, 2021


Until further notice, vendors will not be providing food services in cafeterias and students are encouraged to bring their on food to school.
Students will be remaining in their Period 1 or Period 3 classroom (depending on the week) for lunch, in order to facilitate appropriate cohorting procedures based on recommendations from the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit.


Students will be instructed to bring their lunch to their Period 1 or Period 3 class.  Students will eat their lunch at their desk/work area in their Period 1 or Period 3 class for the first 15 minutes of the 40 minute lunch period.


Students will be able to remove their masks just before eating, while eating and will be required to be masked as soon as they are done eating. 


Following the first 15 minutes of the lunch period, students will make their way outside or to the various common areas during this time. All masking requirements will be in place. 


If students do not have a lunch and/or decide to leave for lunch, they will leave the school at the end of Period 1 or Period 3 class. Weather permitting, students may also choose to eat their lunches outdoors and therefore, they may leave their classrooms at the beginning of lunch. 

 

RECESS & BREAKS OUTDOORS

At this time, students will remain in their classroom cohorts during recess. Shared materials outdoors are permitted, with appropriate hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette. Playground equipment is permitted by one cohort at a time.


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ASSEMBLIES

In proceeding with a cautious approach to the start of the school year, school wide assemblies will not be permitted at this time. 


COOPERATIVE EDUCATION

For students enrolled in cooperative education courses, in-person community placements can be arranged in alignment with the relevant provincial requirements and based on employer availability. 


MUSIC

In keeping with a measured approach to beginning the school year, music instruction will continue to focus on theory, music appreciation and the use of instruments, excluding wind instruments at this time. Music delivery will continue to be monitored and further details will be communicated.  

Where possible, students will be assigned their own instrument for the year/semester. Students may also use their own personal instruments or may rent an instrument.  If shared, proper sanitization of instruments should occur between use. 

Singing is permitted indoors following our Board’s regular masking guidelines.

Music programming is encouraged to take place outdoors when possible and in spaces that allow for as much distancing as possible within cohorts. 


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HEALTH & PHYSICAL EDUCATION

Physical activity classes should take place outdoors as much as possible.

In elementary and secondary health and physical education courses, the use of gymnasiums, change rooms, weight rooms, shared indoor and outdoor physical education equipment are permitted with distancing. Appropriate hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette will be practiced.

Masks should be worn during indoor physical education and activities should be modified to support healthy mask wearing. 

High contact activities are not recommended at this time. High contact sports include, but are not limited to, wrestling, rugby, football, and basketball.

Low contact and no contact activities should be prioritized for physical activity, as wellness breaks during class or in physical education classes outdoors. Lower risk sports may include, but are not limited to, individual running events, soccer, volleyball, bowling, golf.  

These directions are based upon a strong recommendation from the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit on August 31, due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Windsor-Essex. These recommendations will be re-assessed by the local public health unit once case counts have decreased. 

 
EXTRA-CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES
 
All extra-curricular activities, including sports, clubs, field trips, and other nonessential activities, within all school settings (both elementary and secondary schools) will be delayed until at least October 2021. This decision was based upon a strong recommendation from the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit on August 31, due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Windsor-Essex. These recommendations will be re-assessed by the local public health unit once case counts have decreased. 

 
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FIELD TRIPS

In proceeding with a cautious approach to the start of the school year, field trips will not be permitted at this time. Field trips will be reconsidered at a later date.


BEFORE & AFTER SCHOOL PROGRAMS

Schools, child care operators and authorized recreation providers in schools will follow the guidance for Before and After school programs and collaborate to ensure that student lists and information are maintained and readily available to be provided to public health for contact tracing purposes in accordance with all applicable legislation.

Students in Before and After school programs and authorized recreation programs will be part of two cohorts (class cohort and child care cohort).

Shared spaces will be sanitized in between cohort use, before and after school.


STUDENT TRANSPORTATION
 
Windsor-Essex Student Transportation Services, which provides busing to all four local school boards, has finalized its protocols for returning to school. You can read them here: http://buskids.ca/RTSProtocols.pdf 
 
It is recommended that all students and parents maintain appropriate physical distance while waiting at the bus stop. Parents and students from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12 are required to wear a non-medical or cloth mask when waiting in line at the bus stop and at all times while riding the bus. 
 
Due to current public health guidance on bus capacity limitations, Transit Windsor is limiting capacity to 40 passengers per bus.  This may result in buses being unable to accommodate some secondary school riders.
 
Students are encouraged to use active and safe routes to schools (e.g. walking, cycling) where possible or private transportation if available, to ease pressure on transportation demand.   


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COMMUNITY USE OF SCHOOLS

In proceeding with a cautious approach to the start of the school year, community use of indoor spaces in schools will not be permitted at this time. Only outdoor spaces will continue to be available for community use.


MANAGEMENT OF COVID-19 IN SCHOOLS

The Ministry of Health has developed a document entitled COVID-19 guidance: school case, contact and outbreak management which provides guidance to local public health units on investigating cases, outbreaks, and suspected outbreaks associated with elementary and secondary school settings.

The Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board works very closely with the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) to manage any illnesses that are probable or confirmed cases of COVID-19. There may be a variability in scenarios based on local context.

All staff will be made aware of symptom descriptions. With any symptoms of illness - COVID-19 related or not - sick individuals (students, staff or visitors) should stay home and seek assessment from their regular healthcare provider if required.


Management of ill or symptomatic individuals in the school setting

Any individual, including students, staff, visitors, parents/guardians, who become ill while at school, including before and after school care affiliated with the school will be immediately separated from others, in a designated room where possible. 

Ill staff members or adults will be directed to return home and seek medical advice. If they cannot leave immediately, the staff member or adult will be separated from others, in a designated room where possible.

Isolated ill students will be supervised by a staff member with physical distancing maintained, and personal protective equipment provided consistent with health guidance. Schools will notify parents/guardians immediately and they will be advised to pick up their child from school as soon as possible. The ill student should not take student or public transportation. Parents/guardians will be directed to consult and follow the guidance of a health care professional. 

Schools will report any probable or confirmed cases of COVID-19 within the school to the WECHU in accordance with the duty to report under the Health Protection and Promotion Act. To support successful case and contact management, schools will ensure records of classes, transported students, and visitors to the school are maintained and readily available to be provided to the WECHU for contact tracing purposes. Information will be shared in accordance with all applicable legislations, including the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.


Management of individuals exposed to COVID-19 outside of a school setting

Situations will arise where students, staff, essential visitors or contractors or teachers may be exposed to COVID-19 outside of the school environment (for example, to family members that don’t attend the school, social contacts outside of school).  Individuals who are not fully immunized or previously positive and have been identified as a high-risk close contact of a COVID-19 case, such as household members, should not attend school and follow directions from the local public health unit on testing and self-isolation.  

In general, isolation and testing of a cohort may not be necessary if the student or staff acquired the infection outside of the school setting and did not attend school while communicable.  This will be determined by the local public health unit. 


Management of a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 in the school community

Every individual who has tested positive for COVID-19 will be contacted by the WECHU and provided further direction. Any individual who tests positive for COVID-19 must isolate and cannot attend school until they are cleared by the WECHU.

The WECHU will notify the school of a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. Where the WECHU determines there was a transmission risk to others in the school, students and staff will be assessed by the health unit to determine their risk of exposure and whether they will require testing and isolation.

Classroom cohorts (students and staff affiliated with the cohort) will generally be considered at high risk of exposure. All students and staff who are identified as high risk close contacts should get tested regardless of their immunization status.  In general, individuals who are fully immunized* or previously positive** will not require isolation, unless otherwise directed by the WECHU.


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*FULLY IMMUNIZED
For the purposes of case/contact/outbreak management, an individual is defined as fully immunized ≥14 days after receiving their second dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine series or their first dose of a one-dose COVID-19 vaccine series that is listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization or approved by Health Canada. Individuals who are immunocompromised are excluded from this definition, in accordance with COVID-19 Fully Immunized and Previously Positive Individuals: Case, Contact and Outbreak Management Interim Guidance.


** PREVIOUSLY POSITIVE
For the purposes of case/contact/outbreak management, an individual is defined as previously positive they were a confirmed case of COVID-19 where their initial positive result was ≤ 90 days ago and they have been cleared from their initial infection. Individuals who are immunocompromised are excluded from this definition, in accordance with COVID-19 Fully Immunized and Previously Positive Individuals:
Case, Contact and Outbreak Management Interim Guidance.



OUTBREAK PROTOCOLS

As outlined in the Ministry of Health COVID-19 covid 19 guidance: school case, contact, and outbreak management, an outbreak in a school is defined as two or more lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in students or staff (or other visitors) 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 before or after school care). 

The WECHU will work with the school to determine whether epidemiological links (for example, cases in the same class, cases that are part of the same before and after school care cohort, cases that have assigned bus seats in close proximity to each other) exist between cases and whether transmission may have occurred in the school.

The WECHU will determine which cohort(s) may be sent home (for self-isolation) in response to a case, an outbreak or if full school closure is required based on the extent of an outbreak. In some instances, the WECHU may give school principals discretion, if necessary, to dismiss individuals or cohorts while awaiting the results of the health unit’s investigation.

The WECHU will determine when an outbreak is declared over.  The outbreak does not necessarily need to be over to re-open the school.  Cohorts without evidence of transmission can be gradually brought back to school as additional information and test results become available. 
The WECHU will provide recommendations and support to schools impacted by a COVID-19 outbreak.
 
 
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COMMUNICATING WITH THE SCHOOL COMMUNITY
 
Schools are responsible for reporting a confirmed COVID-19 case associated with the school to the WECHU according to the Health Protection and Promotion Act and to the Ministry of Education through the provincial daily reporting tool, where they have become aware of such a case.

In the interests of privacy, information provided to school communities will not identify the student or staff member that has received a positive COVID-19 test.
If the WECHU advises that a class, cohort or a school should be closed for a period of time, parents, students and staff will be notified immediately.

Non-personal health information regarding a confirmed case of COVID-19 involving a student or staff member in a school setting will be posted on the COVID-19 Advisory Section of the school board’s website. As cases are resolved the information will be removed from the website.
 
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