BROCKVILLE – The plan for returning to school this fall for students at the Upper Canada District School Board is a bit more clear now according to documents released by the board this afternoon (August 14th).
In the plan, elementary students will be cohorted, or placed, in an assigned class. Schools that blend French Immersion and Core French instruction will not have student classes blended during this period as a way to limit direct and indirect contacts. Students will stay in the same class throughout the day and teachers will move from class-to-class if needed to teach.
The UCDSB is adopting the provincially-recommended quadmester system for secondary students. This means instead of the regular four-class per semester, two semester school year, students will see two classes per quadmester, with four quadmesters in the school year. Each class will be two-and-a-half hours in length. One class in the morning, one in the afternoon with a lunch break in between. Each quadmester will last nine weeks.
Students that begin the school year in the remote distanced learning cohort can choose to switch to in-class, in-school learning at only specific intervals throughout the school year. Elementary students will have a schedule for when they can switch between the two delivery models, Secondary students can only switch delivery models at the end of each quadmester in the school timetable.
Grade 4 to 12 students must wear face masks unless they have a specific underlying health condition that prevents them from wearing a mask. Masks are required in all indoor spaces but not outdoor spaces. Teachers will be responsible for developing routines in the classroom for students lining up and going to a recess yard. All staff will have PPE provided including face masks and shields.
Students can bring a backpack to school with a water bottle, lunch, and specific materials needed for school. All personal belongings will be stored at student desks. Lockers, hooks and cubbie areas in hallways and classrooms are off limits.
Elementary students will eat their lunches in their classroom. There will be no hot lunch program in schools during the pandemic. Secondary school cafeterias will be open for food service. There is no details if secondary students can leave school campuses during lunch periods.
Additional safety measures include plexiglass shields in office areas that have already been installed by the board and hand sanitation stations. All entrance points to the schools will have hand sanitation stations, and updated signage. Stations will also be set up outside all common areas, at classroom entrances, washrooms, and other rooms used by schools.
“Explicit teaching and opportunities for practice by students to develop comfort and familiarity of these requirements will take place early and often upon return to school, and throughout the school year,” said the board document.
Only water bottle filling stations will be available for students, no water fountains will be available.
Inside the classroom, furniture will be rearranged to promote physical distancing. Carpets, plush toys, and other equipment that are more difficult to clean will be removed.
Students will be assigned a specific desk or seating space in a classroom, with the classroom teacher maintaining records of seating assignments.
Parents will receive a Parent Screening Tool which is being developed by the Eastern Ontario Health Unit and the Leeds, Grenville, and Lanark District Health Unit. The tool is to daily for screening children before sending to school. School staff are also expected to self-assess for COVID-19 symptoms. If staff or students are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, they are not to attend school.
If there is an outbreak, a school will follow pubic health protocols already in place with the local health units. Each school will maintain records for each classroom to assist with contact tracing.
All schools will have a separate Wellness Room for the purposes of a person who has become ill in a school. Each room will have a COVID-19 kit with PPE and instructions on how to use it.
No visitors will be allowed within schools including parents and volunteers. Appointments for teacher/parent communication will be held by telephone or virtually. On-site visits must be approved by the UCDSB’s central board office.
Students will be assigned to use specific washrooms to use when needed.
Details for getting to and from school are still unclear. The board says it is encouraging active forms of transportation like walking and cycling to school. No further details have been released by Student Transportation of Eastern Ontario to the protocols being used for bus transportation and the board’s own back-to-school document did not outline any.
For parents opting to drive their children to school, there are unspecified procedures to follow for pick up and drop off. Individual schools will have to develop their own procedures which may include using multiple entry doors to promote physical distancing, and/or stagger entry and dismissal times.
Parents now have one week to decide which delivery model they will choose for their students, and they will have to fill out a form to let the board know by August 20th.
There will be a virtual public meeting held by UCDSB trustees on August 19th with public health and STEO officials available. According to the board, there will be an opportunity for questions during this forum.
Details from the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario on its back-to-school plan have not been released yet.