KPDSB, NWCDSB welcoming students back to class
Reeti Meenakshi Rohilla - Staff Writer
With many students returning to class on September 2, area school boards are tirelessly preparing to safely conduct more educational and fun activities than what the past year and a half had to offer.
Based on advice from the Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, schools are permitted to open for in-person learning with health and safety measures in place for the 2021-22 school year, shared Ontario’s COVID-19: Health, safety, and operational guidance for schools (2021-2022).
Two area school boards, the Keewatin Patricia District School Board (KPDSB) and The Northwest Catholic District School Board (NWCDSB) shared their joy to welcome students and staff back to in-person learning. All students will be required to wear a mask inside the school unless eating or drinking, with an exception for Kindergarten students who are encouraged to wear masks, but not required to wear them. Students can remove their masks outside.
Sherri-Lynne Pharand, KPDSB Director of Education shared, “Many of the preparations will be similar to last year. Students can expect to see the same signage on the floor to help with social distancing and the same masking and hand hygiene expectations.” She added, “Elementary students will be cohorted with one classroom teacher wherever possible. Secondary schools will once again operate under a quad-mester format where they have two classes a day.”
Pharand shared, “New this year is that students do not need to stay within their cohort during recess and breaks outdoors, but distancing will be encouraged between cohorts as much as possible. All students and staff are expected to complete the COVID-19 school screening each morning before going to school (or boarding a school bus).”
KPDSB schools will resume school clubs and extracurricular activities this year. Pharand shared, “We know students who participate in athletics, or band, or the arts, or drama, will be just as excited as we are to be able to welcome back those activities. Field trips are also permitted this year. They will all be conducted in accordance with health protocols and approved by the health unit.”
All KPDSB school ventilation systems have been inspected for operations/optimization with full monitoring for fresh air and filter quality, shared Pharand. She added that they have hired additional custodian support to ensure high touch surfaces are cleaned during peak school times. KPDSB staff will also be providing training around hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette for all students. “All Kindergarten classrooms will have a standalone high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter unit, as students are not masked in Kindergarten,” shared Pharand.
Pharand said, “We’re really excited to welcome our students and staff back in person and reconnect with our students learning remotely. At the same time we know that we have an important responsibility to ensure all students and staff are as safe as possible when they return to school. I want to assure families that we will follow all protocols and do all that we can to ensure the safety of our students and staff.” She added, “I would really like to say thank you to our parents for their continued support and commitment to learning, to our students for working hard in spite of the many different challenges that there were with all the different changes. I would also like to say a sincere thanks to all of our staff, who truly put kids first every single day.”
The NWCDSB’s Director of Education, Brendan Hyatt, said, “All staff and students, as well as essential visitors in the school are required to do a self-screening on the Ontario COVID screening tool. We expect that if they have symptoms that they stay home.” He added, “Unfortunately, we are only going to be able to have essential visitors continued to be permitted to be in the school. We would love to welcome all our families and guests back into the school but at this time with the delta variant gaining traction and with COVID still in our communities, we just have to make sure that we are doing everything and taking all precautions to ensure that students are safe while they are in the school.”
NWCDSB schools will continue to remind students to stick to their cohorts and physically distance. Students in Grades 1-8 will need to wear masks at all times with the exception of when they are eating. Students will be able to remove their masks when outside. Kindergarten students are strongly encouraged to wear masks, but are not required to wear them.
Asked if extra-curricular activities, sports, and instrumental music will resume this school year, Hyatt shared, “Our hope is to certainly move forward with sports in both co and extra-curricular, that’s our plan to move forward with those if we can get the bus landed between the different school boards. As far as instrumental music goes, our students that are cohorted will be able to do instrumental music. Obviously they’ll be using the necessary safety protocols, but out plan is to move forward with that as well.”
Hyatt added about field trips, “We are still working on whether or not we are going to be able to allow our students to engage in field trips.
Hyatt said, “I am really excited to welcome our staff and students back to our schools for this 2021-2022 school year. We certainly can’t wait to see everyone and know that students and staff are excited to get back into the schools and be together and see each others faces, because that hasn’t happened in a long time. I know that we’ve been in challenging and uncertain times for our families, and I want them to know that we are committed to supporting the healthy and safe return to the school, with a focus on the related safety strategies that have been put out in the guiding.” He added, “We will take all precautions necessary to make sure that we mitigate risks associated with COVID, while ensuring that we are helping them with their learning and renewal.”
Further updates regarding changes to school operations can be found on the each of the school board’s websites. KPDSB’s website can be accessed at http://www.kpdsb.on.ca and NWCDSB’s website at https://www.tncdsb.on.ca.