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Return to School Guidelines 2021-2022

INTRODUCTION
Revised March 16, 2022


The WECDSB Return to School Guidelines were developed for the return to school in September 2021, 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.

As of March 21, the Ontario government lifted many of the COVID-19 restrictions that were previously in place so that schools could return to a more normal learning environment.

The guidelines below have been modified to reflect those changes.



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
Revised March 16, 2022


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

As of March 21, cohorting and distancing will no longer be required in schools or on school buses. Elementary students can play and learn together across cohorts, classes and grades, both indoors and outdoors and during lunch and recess. 

Shared spaces can be fully utilized without distancing.

Limitations on in-person gathering and assemblies have been removed, therefore schools can plan and host in-person events such as graduations, masses, and assemblies.

SECONDARY
Revised March 16, 2022


At the beginning of the second semester, WECDSB transitioned back to a normal four-period day schedule.

As of March 21, cohorting and distancing will no longer be required in schools or on school buses. Secondary students can learn and socialize together across cohorts, classes and grades, both indoors and outdoors and during lunch. 

Shared spaces can be fully utilized without distancing.

Limitations on in-person gathering and assemblies have been removed, therefore schools can plan and host in-person events such as proms, graduations, masses, and assemblies.

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REMOTE LEARNING for the 2021-22 School Year

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. 

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
Revised March 16, 2022

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. 

As of March 21, parents are no longer required to provide on-site attestation of self screening.


VISITORS
Revised March 16, 2022

As of March 21, all visitors will be allowed to enter WECDSB schools provided they follow standard visitor protocols (eg, sign visitor book, check in at office)

All visitors to the school will be required to self screen and perform hand hygiene upon entering the building.  

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PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT
Revised March 16, 2022

In alignment with community masking requirements, masks will no longer be required for students, staff and visitors ins schools, school board offices and on student transportation as of March 21.
As some students and staff may choose to continue to wear PPE, it will be available in schools.
In addition, school communities will continue to promote respectful, welcoming and inclusive practices so that all feel safe and comfortable regardless of their choice regarding the use of PPE.
A reminder that under current federal travel requirements, upon return from international travel individuals must wear a mask at all times when in public spaces (schools and child care) for 14 days.
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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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.


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CAFETERIA USE & LUNCH PROTOCOLS
Revised March 16, 2022

As of March 21, all protocols regarding distancing during lunch periods have been lifted.
 

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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. 


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EXTRA-CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES
Revised March 7, 2022
 
On March 4, all four local school boards announced they would be following a new recommendation made by the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit to lift the previous restriction and allow all students to participate in extracurricular activities regardless of vaccination status.

Read the full statement here.

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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
Revised March 16, 2022

According to the Ontario Ministry of Health, individuals only exposed at school where all public health measures are in place are not generally considered “high risk” contacts.


All cases (i.e. people who test positive on PCR, rapid molecular, or rapid antigen test OR who are presumed positive) should notify high risk contacts of their exposure.


Public health units will no longer be dismissing cohorts. Any dismissals or closures of a school or child care will be contingent on operational requirements determined by the school board, school and/or child care operator. 


We understand that parents have become accustomed to receiving notifications from the WECDSB regarding positive cases and cohort dismissals however, given the widespread transmission and inability to test all symptomatic individuals, Ontario school boards will not be routinely notifying parents or students/pupils in classes or on buses with a positive case, or if a child/student or staff is absent due to symptoms associated with COVID-19.


This change in reporting is based on direction from both the Ministry of Health and the Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health (OCMOH).


Where a student or staff member has been advised from a case that they may have been exposed to a positive case of COVID-19 at school, they should monitor for symptoms and seek testing if eligible/available. Guidance will be provided to those who have been in contact with someone who has tested positive.



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