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Trustees get glimpse of public board’s back-to-school plans

Extracurriculars are a go, common areas re-open, and no final exams for high school students
2020-08-05 Dawn JO-001
Dawn Stephens, superintendent of education with the SCDSB, (pictured in a file photo) announced back-to-school protocols for September on Wednesday night. Jessica Owen/BarrieToday files

The public school board has released their back-to-school plan for September, and cafeteria food will be back on the menu.

During a Simcoe County District School Board meeting on Wednesday night, superintendent of education Dawn Stephens provided a verbal update to trustees on what back to school will look like in two weeks. An email was also sent out with the nine-page plan to parents Wednesday night outlining what to expect.

“We are very excited to welcome our students back to in-person learning on Sept. 7,” said Stephens. “We are looking forward to this staged, cautious approach to adopting some of the new guidelines that have been implemented through the Ministry of Education.”

Elementary students who have opted for in-person learning will attend full time, in classroom cohorts that will not mix or combine with other classes. Recesses and classes will be timetabled to limit interactions between classes, and students will eat in their classrooms.

For secondary students attending in-person, the semester one timetable will be based on a modified semester. This means students will take two classes per week, alternating between week A and week B for the full semester. Cafeterias will be reopened for food service. There will be no final examinations in the 2021/22 school year.

Oro-Medonte/Springwater Trustee Peter Beacock asked if students would still be out at 12 p.m. with study hall, or if the timetable for lunches would be re-integrated into the middle of the day as they were pre-pandemic.

“We are going back to regular school dismissal time with no study hall,” said Stephens. “We are going back to regular school bell times.”

In both elementary and secondary panels, common areas such as libraries, gymnasiums and cafeterias will be open and outdoor learning will be encouraged.

At this time, no visitors/volunteers will be permitted, although essential visitors will be permitted. There will still be no assemblies or large gatherings.

Extracurricular activities will begin again this fall, and field trips will be permitted on a school-by-school bass. The board has indicated more information will be forthcoming on implementation of these matters.

In accordance with advice from the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, masking will be required for all students from kindergarten to Grade 12.

All students and staff are required to complete a self-screening prior to attending school each day using the COVID-19 self-assessment tool, and students or staff with symptoms must stay home.

Within the school environments, enhanced cleaning and disinfecting at least twice daily of frequently touched surfaces and shared resources will continue. Training will occur on proper hand hygiene including instruction on hand washing, sanitizing and respiratory etiquette. Hand sanitizer will be provided in each classroom for student and teacher use.

In regards to ventilation, standalone high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter units will be placed in all learning spaces without mechanical ventilation and will be placed in all kindergarten classrooms.

According to the plan, the SCDSB has fully functioning mechanical ventilation systems at all schools which include the use of MERV 13 filters.

Directional arrows and signage will be utilized in schools to support physical distancing measures. Schools will have designated entry and exit doors and staggered entry and exit times. Acrylic shielding will remain installed in school offices.

Transportation protocols through the Simcoe County Student Transportation Consortium will continue as they were last year.

Trustee Beacock also asked if there would be extra supports for students who may have fallen behind over the past year.

“We have been working closely with the province on means to support students who may have fallen behind. There will be an introduction of a variety of programs in our schools,” said Stephens.

New Tecumseth Trustee Sarah Beitz asked whether it is possible to inquire about vaccination status of students aged 12 and up, noting that teachers and staff will be mandated to be vaccinated.

“Why aren’t we employing same protocols we will have of our staff to students?” asked Beitz. “I’m not sure why we’re not having them report and if not, (they should) do the testing staff will have to do.”

Stephens said there has been no discussion provincially at this point regarding a mandatory vaccination protocol for students.

“I’m pleased we’re approaching this cautiously and carefully,” said Orillia/Severn/Ramara Trustee Jodi Lloyd. “I think it’s important we’re keeping many measures in place.”

Virtual options will mostly remain the same at the school board, through the [email protected] platform.

Surveys sent out to parents which were due back by June 1 asked parents to make a choice at that time whether their children would be returning to school in-class or through virtual options in September.

For the 2021/2022 school year in the public board, 37,935 students are enrolled in elementary schools, while 16,232 students are enrolled in secondary schools.

This year, about 1,900 elementary students and 325 secondary students have opted for the online schooling option. All others have opted to be in-class.

This is a marked decrease from the 2020/2021 school year, where about 7,000 elementary and 2,600 secondary students chose virtual options.

Moving forward, new requests or changes to learning mode for September 2021 are not being accepted at the public board. Families who did not submit a request for [email protected] and any new registrations will begin the 2021-2022 school year as an in-person learner.

The board has said that students may move between remote and in-person learning at the natural term transition time at the end of Term 1 in February 2022, where space exists.

To read the full SCDSB back-to-school plan, click here.

The Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board has not yet released their back-to-school plans for the fall.

The public board will be holding a media event on Thursday, Aug. 26 at 1 p.m. If you have questions about September’s return to school that you’d like answered, email them to [email protected].

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Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen brings 13 years of experience to her role as reporter for Village Media, primarily covering Collingwood and education.
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