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What we know, and how to find out more about back to school plans in Ontario

School is resuming in the actual classroom soon, but things are going to be different due to ongoing measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  On July 30, the Ontario Ministry of Education announced the return to school plan.  Elementary students will attend school five days a week in cohorts, which means they will be with the same group of students throughout the school day.  Secondary students will have different timetables and will be in cohorts of approximately 15 students.  Secondary students will also be in the classroom about 50 per cent of the time with the remainder of their studies being done online.  Students in grades four to 12 will be required to wear masks indoors.

Parents can still opt to have their children learn at home using the online platforms organized by school boards, and parents also have the right under The Education Act in Ontario to home-school their children.

Records will be kept of contacts students have with each other; there will be regular screening for symptoms of COVID-19, and hygiene and distancing protocols at school.  However, organizing the specifics is up to each school board, or even each school.

According to the Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB), which operates English-language public schools in Prescott and Russell, and Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry counties, planning transportation protocols for safe distancing on buses is “ongoing.”  The UCDSB is working with the Eastern Ontario Health Unit to develop hygiene and health requirements, and physical distancing practices which will be different for each school, depending on enrolment numbers and building layout. Board psychologists and staff are also working on a transition plan to protect student mental health during the return to class, which is on September 4.  For more information, go to http://www.ucdsb.on.ca/u_c_d_s_b_news/UCDSB_school_reopening_plan or http://www.ucdsb.on.ca/u_c_d_s_b_news/UCDSB_school_reopening_plan/ucdsb_school_reopening_faq .

The Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario (CDSBEO) has not yet issued any new information on how it is implementing the Ministry of Education’s plan for the new school year, which begins on September 4 in the board’s schools.  The CDSBEO website is https://www.cdsbeo.on.ca/

On July 31, Conseil scolaire de district catholique de l’Est ontarien Director of Education François Turpin announced that the local French-language Catholic school board will be creating a new section of its website and using social media to keep parents informed of how practices and procedures will be implemented leading up to the first day of school on September 3.  That letter can be viewed at https://csdceo.ca/fr/Communications-Aux-Parents_211/Lettre-Aux-Parents-Du-31-Juillet-2020–Calendrier-Scolaire-20202021_2614

Conseil des écoles publiques de l’Est de l’Ontario Director of Education Sylvie C.R. Tremblay issued a letter to parents explaining that parents will have to select the mode of transportation their children will take to school in order to maintain physical distancing, and that masks will be required for students using buses as of September 3.  The French-language public school board has created a complete return to school section of its website for parents to use as a guide.  It is available at https://cepeo.on.ca/retouralecole/

The Ontario Ministry of Education’s guide to reopening schools is available at https://www.ontario.ca/page/covid-19-reopening-schools .

James Morgan

James Morgan is a freelance contributor. He has worked for several print and broadcast media outlets. James loves the history, natural beauty, and people of eastern Ontario and western Quebec.

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