School boards provide more information about screening, staffing and transportation
While many teachers and students have checked out of class on Friday, local school boards are struggling to get updated information on what the return to personal learning might look like Monday as omicron cases continue to rise in the province.
Earlier this week, the Department of Education announced that all schools in Ontario will be allowed to reopen for personal learning on January 17.
In a letter sent to parents by the Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) on Thursday evening, officials say they will continue to work closely with and follow our directions from authorities at both the local health unit and the Department to implement updated health and safety measures. announced by Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, are being implemented to support the return to personal learning.
A similar letter would be sent Friday afternoon by the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board, outlining what to expect when schools reopen.
The letter from the public council included information about the updated Daily COVID-19 self-screening tool, and reminded families to ensure that all children complete and pass the COVID-19 self-screening tool daily, before entering school.
The daily screening has been updated to include a more sensitive list of COVID-19 symptoms, as well as the requirement for anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 to self-isolate and stay home, regardless of vaccination status.
Parents can also expect each student to be sent home with two rapid antigen tests that can be used when individuals are symptomatic.
With the return to personal learning, school boards are anticipating a higher than normal rate of staff absences so they can comply with updated screening and isolation guidelines.
“While we are doing everything we can to reduce the impact on schools and provide support, there may be circumstances where staff absenteeism leads to temporary school closures,” SCDSB officials said in the letter to parents.
If a school has to close because of understaffing, Pauline Stevenson, spokesman for the local Catholic council, said she will do everything she can to make the call the night before as much as possible.
“We will communicate with our families via email and automated voice call. We are also going to issue a media warning just like we would if it were a school closure due to a bad weather day or any other reason. We will also post on our website,” she says.
However, Stevenson noted that it is not possible to make a decision until 6:30 a.m. the morning, using the same process for notification.
“We ask our families to have emergency childcare facilities in case that needs to happen,” she said.
When a school is closed, students and teachers switch to synchronous virtual learning for employees who are not sick.
“Some classes may need to learn asynchronously,” Stevenson said.
If a school has to close, the families will be notified by email. Closures will also be posted on the SCDSB website and on various social media channels, including Twitter and Facebook.
For students taking the bus, both boards have been informed of the possible delays or cancellations of the bus route due to the driver’s absence.
Any route delays or cancellations will be posted on the Simcoe County Student Transportation Consortium (SCTSC) will post bus route delays and cancellations on its website.
Parents are encouraged to regularly check the SCSTC website or sign up to receive email notifications by clicking here.