Ontario school boards work out details of personal learning ahead of January 17, 2022 return

The Toronto District School Board released some details about its plan for Monday’s return to personal learning, including how it will report positive COVID-19 cases in classrooms.

In a statement posted to its website Thursday evening, the TDSB said that when schools become aware of a confirmed case of a PCR or rapid antigen test, only classes directly affected will be notified.

“As the Ministry of Education has stated that classes will no longer be canceled due to a case of COVID-19, that guidance will no longer be provided by the school. Instead, parents/guardians and/or students will use the daily COVID-19 screening tool to determine their return to school,” wrote Colleen Russell-Rawlins, TDSB’s director of education.

“While individual classes are provided with information on COVID-19 cases, the COVID-19 advisory page on the TDSB website will no longer be updated,” the board said. The page previously listed active confirmed cases and resolved cases among students and staff at its schools.

On Wednesday, Ontario’s Education Minister Stephen Lecce gave a few more details about what parents can expect next week when the kids return to class for the first time since the winter break.

He confirmed that schools are not required to notify parents directly about COVID-19 cases in the classroom, but would alert parents when about 30 percent of students and staff at a school are absent on any given day. The county also said parents will have access to data about absenteeism at their child’s school from January 24.

When reporting absences, the TDSB said it is in consultation with Toronto Public Health whether lowering the threshold is more appropriate.

“We want to make sure we’re as transparent as possible, so in addition to the 30 percent notification, we’re looking at how we can let families know what’s happening in classrooms and schools. So we’re in the process of finalizing our own plans,” TDSB said. spokesman Ryan Bird told CP24 Thursday morning.

“PCR testing is essentially being phased out at the school level to replace rapid antigen testing. What is the availability of these on a frequent basis? So we want to make sure we can provide that accurate information when we hear about confirmed cases. But what do we do then? when we hear about symptomatic cases? How do we make sure we’re open, but don’t tell everyone about a runny nose in a classroom? It’s a bit more complicated than it looks.”

The province has pledged to provide every student in Ontario’s schools with two rapid antigen tests upon their return to personal learning, and more tests will be provided on an “as needed” basis when the province provides additional supplies. PCR testing is not available to all students and will be limited to those who experience significant symptoms during class. The remaining stock of about 200,000 PCR self-collection kits in schools will not be replenished if they run out, the province’s health chief confirmed Wednesday.

The TDSB confirmed that elementary students and staff and high school personnel will receive rapid antigen tests when they return next week. Meanwhile, high school students will get the tests “when additional supplies are provided by the ministry later in the week.”

All students will also be provided with high-quality three-layer cloth masks that they can wear inside buildings.

The TDSB noted that they are also receiving an additional 300 HEPA units from the province in addition to the more than 16,000 units already installed in all occupied learning spaces.

For elementary students who choose to continue learning virtually, the TDSB said simultaneous (live) learning with those attending in-person classes will not be available. However, it remains an option for high school students.

“While this will depend on the unique circumstances at each school, physical distance will be maximized and students will eat at different times whenever possible,” the TDSB said during school lunches.

The board also confirmed that all personal extracurricular activities that involve mixing cohorts, singing and using wind instruments will be temporarily suspended.

Meanwhile, Bird said the board is bracing for high absenteeism due to staff experiencing symptoms or having close contact with positive cases.

“When it comes to staff shortages, we’re now looking at strategies to determine exactly how we do that,” he said.

“It’s difficult to determine when you have nearly 600 locations how these shortages will affect the system at the school level. It may be necessary for operational reasons to close a class, to close a school. We really know.” Not yet until we’re honestly in it.”

Operational leadership of the Ministry of Education stated that schools can organize virtual learning days or group classes together in situations where large numbers of staff are absent, but that they must first access pools of retired teaching staff and trainee teachers to fill gaps .

Brendan Browne, the education director for the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB), also said schools within the TCDSB plan to go “above and beyond” what the county needs in terms of communicating positive cases to parents.

“We recognize that parents really want to know, so what we look at is when there’s a confirmed case reported to the principal, we’ll let that cohort know so the class knows as a courtesy to try and make sure.” to make sure parents are aware,” he told CP24.

He said he is confident that teachers have enough N95 masks and that every school will have HEPA filters or improved ventilation systems in every occupied classroom.

Administrators of the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board sent an open letter to Lecce this week outlining their “grave concern, disappointment and frustration” over the changes to provincial protocols, especially the decision to halt COVID-19 reporting. and dismissal of students and staff when a positive case is established.

“This is a concern that all administrators hear daily from our parents/guardians who are angry, frustrated and more anxious than ever to send their children to school,” the letter reads.

They criticized the province for a lack of transparency and consultation with school boards, for not providing equal access to test kits and N95 masks for students, and for failing to provide adequate funding for ventilation and improving air quality.

The province provides millions of N95 masks to education and childcare workers, but not students. The ministry has said it will send four million “high-quality three-layer masks” to face-to-face learning students across Ontario. In addition to the 70,000 HEPA filter units previously sent to schools, the county has noted that it is re-deploying 3,000 additional standalone units to schools ahead of Monday’s return.

“Returning to the previous case and contact management system, including transparent reporting of known positive COVID-19 cases in schools and sharing this information in accordance with applicable privacy laws with parents/guardians under the previously established protocol, would go a long way toward regaining the trust of our community,” read the letter from the administrators.

“We implore the county, as a first step, to allow all students and teaching staff access to medical grade masks or N95 masks, as noted above, to provide a sufficient number of test kits for each student and teaching staff member to test at home. for COVID-19, as well as reconstructing the existing reporting and management system and to consult with stakeholders on these and other important matters impacting the health and safety of our students and staff, as indicated, going forward.”

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