Bluewater board forwards parents letter detailing province’s plans

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The Bluewater District School Board has forwarded a letter to parents with some details about Ontario’s plan to return to in-person learning on Wednesday.


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In the letter signed by Education Minister Stephen Lecce and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore, it said health and safety in schools is a top priority and the province is continuing to monitor the situation to ensure that every precaution is taken to protect children, students and staff and to support continued safe in-person learning.

On Thursday the return to school was delayed two days, from Monday to Wednesday. In the announcement, the province said staff would be supplied with N95 masks, while more HEPA units would be provided to schools. There will be no virtual learning on Monday and Tuesday as school boards are reviewing and implementing new provincial guidelines.

In letter from Lecce and Moore it said they know how critical in-person learning is to the mental health, well-being and academic success of students.

They referred to the Children’s Health Coalition – representing Ontario’s children’s hospitals, mental health agencies and rehabilitation centres – which has “emphasized that in-person education is critical to mental health, development and well-being of children and youth.”

The letter said that in response to the surge of cases being fuelled by the highly-transmissible Omicron variant, the province was putting in measures to keep schools as safe as possible for in-person learning.

Among the measures highlighted were:

  • Updating the COVID-19 school and child care screener ahead of the return to school on Wednesday and asking students, parents and staff for rigorous screening and monitoring of symptoms.
  • Providing non-fit-tested N95 masks for staff in schools and licensed child-care settings as an optional alternative to medical/surgical masks, and additional supply of high-quality three-ply cloth masks that are strongly encouraged and free for students and children in January.
  • Deploying an additional 3,000 standalone HEPA filter units to school boards, building on the existing 70,000 HEPA filter units and ventilation devices already in schools.
  • Continuing PCR testing eligibility for symptomatic elementary and secondary students, education staff and participating private and First Nation operated schools who have received a PCR self-collection kit through their school.
  • Starting in January, temporarily permitting only low-contact indoor sports and safe extra-curricular activities.
  • Updating COVID-19 reporting requirements for school boards and child care in January.
  • Supporting the projected hiring of over 2,000 staff, funded by a $304 million allocation for second semester that includes additional teachers, custodians, and mental health workers.


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With higher rates of absenteeism, school boards were also being directed to exhaust all efforts to fill staff vacancies, including through substitute and retired teachers, before shifting to online learning.

In the letter, it said the province was benefitting from high rates of vaccination – with more than 85.9 per cent of youth age 12 to 17 having received one dose and 82.2 per cent having received two doses. It said 43.1 per cent of children age 5 to 11 had received a first dose.

Everyone eligible was being encouraged to get vaccinated or their booster to further protect students as they return to school.

“By working together we can help Ontario students achieve a successful continuation of in-person learning this winter,” the letter said.

Grey-Bruce Medical Officer of Health Dr. Ian Arra said Thursday that they would be moving away from the system where cohorts – or classes — are dismissed when someone in that cohort tests positive.

“Everybody who is sick will isolate on their own,” he said, adding that with the isolation period being reduced from 10 to 5 days means it will be easier on families.

“It is still not going to be easy.”

The Bruce-Grey Catholic District School Board provided an update on Friday with general guidance for families.

Before returning to school students were being asked to complete a rapid antigen test that was provided to them before the holiday break. If they test positive they must stay home and isolate.


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Students also must screen every day with a link of the updated screener to be provided when it is released by the province. If sick, students must stay home and isolate.

Students must properly wear a mask at school and must sanitize their hands regularly while there.

“We know that many families were impacted by Covid 19 during the holiday break. We pray that you are safe and well as we move into the New Year,” the update said. “Thank you for your collective efforts to keep the community safe during this new surge in Covid cases.”

In a letter from Bluewater District School Board Director of Education Lori Wilder on Thursday, it said all elementary and secondary schools would reopen on Wednesday with no remote learning taking place on Monday and Tuesday.

“We appreciate the continued patience and cooperation of our students and families as we work through this slight delay period together, and look forward to seeing everyone again soon,” Wilder wrote.



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