COVID-19 update: preparing for the return to personal learning on January 17, 2022

Please read the Special statement released by dr. Vera Etches, Chief Medical Officer on January 12, 2022.

“Omicron cannot be stopped completely. But we can work to smooth the peak and slow transmission so that hospitals can maintain the capacity to deliver care.”

Update: Use the Ontario COVID-19 Daily Screening Tool

Students, parents and staff – please use the provincial COVID-19 screening tool each morning to determine whether or not you attend school in person. The updated provincial screening tool is available in: English and in French. Use this OPH flowchart to understand: symptoms and isolation requirements.

Masks and mask use

Schools will distribute 3-ply cloth masks to students in schools from the week of January 17. Primary school pupils must wear a well-fitting, high-quality mask. In cold weather, masks worn outdoors can become damp or wet; families may want to send an extra mask to play outside. For more information on mask wearing, guidelines and recommendations, visit Ottawa Public Health’s website.

Rapid antigen testing

Each primary school student is given two Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs). We hope to distribute it next week, once the ministry’s shipment is received. We expect to receive additional testing for secondary at a later date. These are used if students show symptoms of COVID-19. If a student gets two negative tests and no longer has symptoms of COVID-19, he can go back to school. To learn how to use a rapid antigen test, instructions are available in multiple languages.

Absence reporting

The province has changed the Covid reporting process. Schools and childcare organizations will no longer routinely notify families of positive cases or if a person is absent due to symptoms related to COVID-19. In the future, schools will monitor absenteeism and report daily on student and staff absences and school closures. We are working on the ministry’s new direction and this reporting is scheduled to begin on January 24, 2022. Principals should notify their local public health unit if absenteeism rises to a certain level (about 30% above their baseline) in schools.

Student attendance

While we all recognize the value of personal learning experiences for children and young people, we know that some families may not be ready to send children to school in person. As always, we ask parents and guardians to inform the school about student absences. Regardless of the reason for the student’s absence, out-of-school students can continue to work on their teaching and learning materials asynchronously through their Google Classroom or virtual learning environment.

Staff Shortages – Possibility of Class or School Closures

As in other sectors in our community, schools can be affected by staff shortages. We will do everything we can to keep classes and schools open, but if we cannot operate safely, a class or school may have to switch to distance learning until we can arrange appropriate coverage. If this happens, we will make every effort to notify parents the night before. We encourage parents to have contingency plans and check your email for updates.


The OCDSB has invested $25 million in school ventilation upgrades. All of our schools meet or exceed ASHRAE recommendations for HVAC operation in schools during the pandemic. In addition, we have 2,300 standalone HEPA units in schools and an additional 81 standalone HEPA filter units from the Ontario government. Take a look at our updated OCDSB ventilation webpage.

Vaccines – Drop-in Availability

Ottawa Public Health’s Community Clinics are now open to everyone for walk-in appointments for a first, second, or booster dose. Visit the OPH website for clinic dates and times. Information on vaccine clinics at school will be available by the end of January.

Mental health and wellbeing

Next week there will be virtual walk-in sessions with our OCDSB mental health team. Parents can listen to and ask questions of our mental health professionals. Read more on our website

The OCDSB Mental Health Team has prepared some simple tips to support learners and parents with wellbeing during these transitions between face-to-face and distance learning. Learn more about these and other resources.

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