The Ontario government has confirmed that all publicly-funded schools in Ontario will return to in-person classroom learning on Monday, January 17, 2022. This includes all elementary and secondary schools of the St. Clair Catholic District School Board. The Board’s Remote Learning School continues to operate according to its regular schedule.
It is important that any students who borrowed technology to participate in online learning during the past week-and-a-half return the devices when they come to school on Monday.
Through the Christmas break and during the past two weeks, St. Clair Catholic has been preparing for the safe return to school. You will have already received a link to the new daily COVID-19 School and Child Care Screening tool.
Daily confirmation of screening will be required when school resumes on January 17, 2022. At the secondary level, students will confirm when they report to class that they have taken and passed the screening. In elementary schools, parents/guardians will receive a daily email, which will include the link to a form for each student in your household. The form is to be completed each day for each student before they attend school. Using the link provided in the email each morning, parents/guardians will submit confirmation that the daily self-screening was completed and the student(s) may attend class.
Given the widespread transmission of the Omicron variant, the Ontario government has updated its guidance for case and contact management of COVID-19 in schools and child care operations. As a result of its new guidance, the Ministry of Education has suspended reporting of COVID-19 cases in all schools. In addition, schools will no longer routinely notify families of positive cases of COVID-19 in a school community; or if an individual is absent due to symptoms associated with COVID-19. When absence due to illness in a school community exceeds 30 percent of enrolment, principals are required to notify the local public health unit and the school community.
Some important new measures to support health and safety will be implemented in schools:
Rapid Antigen Tests Kits – Two (2) Rapids Antigen Test kits will be made available for students and staff as soon as possible, depending on shipments from the Ministry. The kits are for use by students and staff who develop symptoms. Parents/guardians and staff will continue to follow the direction of the COVID-19 School and Child Care Screening tool with regard to test results.
HEPA Filters – St. Clair Catholic is receiving an additional 22 HEPA filters, to be deployed across the system. This is in addition to $9.6 million in investments throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to improve heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems at schools across the district. St. Clair Catholic’s Ventilation Report is posted to the Board website.
Masking Upgrades – An additional supply of three-ply cloth masks has been made available for students in schools across the district, in addition to a supply of non-fit tested N95 masks for staff, which are optional.
As a reminder, masks are mandatory at school and on buses for all students in Grades 1 to 12. Masks for Kindergarten students are optional; however, the St. Clair Catholic District School Board strongly encourages Kindergarten students to wear masks. For more information regarding masks for our youngest learners, visit the Parent Learning Hub on the Board website here.
Temporary Pause for Extra Curricular Sports – As a temporary measure to reduce contacts, school boards have been instructed to pause indoor high contact and high intensity extra curricular activities. In addition, cohorting measures will be put in place for elementary students during recess and outdoor breaks.
These new measures are in addition to the ongoing health and safety protocols, which include hand hygiene, physical distancing, where possible, and increased cleaning of high touch surfaces.
St. Clair Catholic recognizes the value and importance of in-person classroom learning for students. However, due to the widespread transmission of Omicron, we are planning for the possibility of short-term school closures, due to staff shortages. We have contingency plans in place, such as deployment of occasional staff, Board-level staff, and the possibility of combining students from different cohorts. All plans have been reviewed by our Medical Officers of Health. Should it become necessary to temporarily close a classroom or school and revert to online learning, parents/guardians will be given as much notice as possible.
We are now approaching the two-year mark for living with COVID-19. It has been difficult for all of us. We will continue to make our way through this together. If you become concerned about your child’s mental health, it is good to seek help. Your child’s teacher or principal can help direct you to services; or you can visit the mental health page on the Board website for a range of services offered by the Student Support and Wellbeing Team.
Despite the challenges of COVID-19, whether online or in-person, our commitment to you has always been the delivery of high quality Catholic education and ongoing support for mental wellness. Blessings to you and your family as we continue this journey together.
Director of Education