Q&A: Enhanced Health and Safety Measures

health and safety

What measures are being taken to ensure it is safe to return to in-class learning?

There are many enhanced health and safety measures being implemented in order to ensure the safest possible learning and teaching environment for students and staff. It is important to note that we are not relying on one single measure or one single person, but rather a collective effort using all of the tools and measures available to us in order to create a healthy and safe environment.

These measures include:

    • Self-Screening - the completion of a COVID-19 School Screening before attending school or work. 

    • Flow of Traffic and Staggered Entry to Facilitate Physical Distancing - one-way use of hallways, staggered bell-times, adjustments to recess and lunch breaks, changes to entrance and exit practices, adjustments to the use of playgrounds 

    • Signage - Signage posted throughout the school to reinforce physical distancing, hallway direction, hand hygiene, room capacity, etc. 

    • Hand Hygiene - hand sanitizer stations in every class and in selected common areas. Students will be directed to wash their hands at appropriate times during the school day. Students and staff are permitted to bring their own, scent-free hand sanitizer and/or wipes to school.

    • Masks - students in Grades 4 to 12 will be required to wear non-medical or cloth masks inside the school, including in hallways and during classes. Students in Kindergarten to Grade 3 will be encouraged, but not required to wear masks in indoor spaces. Staff will be provided with appropriate personal protective equipment. Students are able to bring their own masks (that meet public health guidelines), if desired. Masks will be available at school and on buses for students who require them.

    • Physical Distancing - will be promoted as much as possible between students and staff. The physical distancing measures will be reinforced through adaptations to the schedule, cohorting of students, flow of traffic and signage. 

    • Student Cohorts - Students in an elementary school will be cohorted with their classmates and their homeroom teacher, with limited contact with other subject teachers (maximum number of student contacts 50). At the secondary level students will be limited to no more than 100 student contacts by introducing a quadmester, i.e., two subjects at a time.

    • Enhanced Cleaning Protocols - Custodial staff will complete ongoing, enhanced cleaning, twice daily and once in the evening, at schools and board office locations. This includes cleaning of desktops, common touch points and washroom facilities.

    What training will be provided to staff?

    Extensive training will be conducted during three PA Days at the beginning of September, prior to September 10th, which will address health and safety training, social/emotional support for our students as well as academic and curriculum priorities. In addition, an extensive Return to School manual will be provided for all staff and available for families on our website.

    Will visitors be permitted to the school? I am a parent volunteer, will I be still able to visit?

    Visitors (including parent volunteers) will not be permitted into schools or board office locations at this time. As part of our program support(s), professional service providers, i.e., public health nurse, special education supports, etc., will be required to self-screen and wear a medical mask while on school premises.

    Will classes sizes remain the same?

    Class sizes are not being reduced as a result of students moving to the virtual learning schools. However, the overall number of students at school will be less than in an average year - at our Board approximately 20% of students have opted for virtual learning. All classrooms will be following strict health and safety protocols including physical distancing measures and student cohorting .

    Can my child wear their own masks and can they bring hand sanitizer or wipes to school?

    We are all in this together and we want to make it as easy as possible for students to be involved with promoting their own health and safety. Students may bring their own cloth masks to school as long as they meet public health guidelines.

    Cloth masks will be made available to students who need them at school and on the bus during the first week of school.  Hand sanitizer will be available in every classroom, but we are also encouraging students to bring their own scent free wipes and hand sanitizer.

    Will mask exemptions be made for special-needs and/or medically-fragile students?

    Although masks are required for students in Grades 4-8, we understand that there may be individuals who have medical conditions that would prevent them from safely wearing a face mask.

    Exemptions may be considered at the discretion of the principal and with appropriate medical documentation.

    How is the Board ensuring safe ventilation in schools?

    Our Facilities department is ensuring the following is in place for each school:

    • Classrooms must have sufficient ventilation.
    • In non-mechanically-ventilated spaces, natural ventilation should be maximized wherever possible, by keeping doors and windows open to promote air exchange.
    • In mechanically-ventilated spaces, HVAC should be run at maximum settings during occupied periods to maximize air changes per hour.
    • All mechanical systems have been designed to meet the Ontario Building Code requirements and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) standards.
    • Air circulated via mechanical ventilation systems is continuously replenished with fresh air.
    • Maintenance and regular changing of filters in all Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems, including replacement of all system filters occurs at recommended intervals.