Returning students to county schools face an array of restrictions, conditions

From the desk of Catherine McCullough, Interim Director of Education, Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board, in a message to parents and guardians


“We are asking all parents and guardians to carefully review the details about what learning will look like in elementary schools, secondary schools and using a distance learning model.” – Catherine McCullough, Interim Director of Education

The Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board has been working hard on developing a plan for the safe return of students and staff back to school this fall. 
Based on the recent announcement from the Ministry of Education we know that all of our schools (elementary and secondary) will be back five days a week beginning on Sept. 8. We also know that parents will have the choice about whether or not they want their child to return to the classroom or opt-in for a distancing learning program. 
We are asking all parents and guardians to carefully review the details about what learning will look like in elementary schools, secondary schools and using a distance learning model. We are also including a Question & Answer Document  with additional details. Once you have reviewed all of the information, we are requesting all parents/guardians to complete a Fall Re-Opening Student Survey, which will provide us with critical information about your child’s plans for September.
Here is what learning will look like in September:
Elementary Schools:
• Students will attend five days a week with 300 minutes of instruction per day.
• At the elementary level, a student cohort, i.e., number of students that can come into contact with each other throughout the course of the day should not exceed 50 
• Students will remain in their class cohort for the full day, including recess and lunch
• Timing of recesses, lunches, and bathroom breaks will be staggered to support cohort levels.
• There will be clearly marked designated entrances and exits for students.
•Students in Grades 4 to 8 will be expected to wear a cloth mask at school.
• Students in primary grades (K-3) will be encouraged to wear a cloth mask at school.
• There will be enhanced protocols, including cleaning of high touch surfaces, regular opportunities for hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, and use of personal protective equipment (PPE), where advised and necessary.
Specific details about bell times will be provided by the school prior to Sept. 8.
Most visitors, including parents, will not be permitted in school buildings. Schools with before and after programs will continue with cohorted programming. Mental health and well-being supports will be available for students.
Secondary Schools:
• Students will attend five days a week with 300 minutes of class time per day.
At the secondary level, a student cohort, i.e., number students that can come into contact with each other throughout the course of the day should not exceed 100. 
In order to maintain this student cohort, secondary schools we will be using a quadmester school timetable. This timetable will have two periods per day, but with full student attendance. In a ‘quadmester’ system, students will have two periods a day for ¼ of the year. For example:
Quad #1: Period 1&2 from Sept. 8 until Nov. 9
Quad #2: Period 3&4 from Nov. 12 until Jan. 28
Quad #3: Period 5&6 from Feb. 3 until April 16
Quad #4: Period 7&8 from April 21 until June 23
Exams and course culminating tasks will occur at the end of each ‘quadmester. Timing of lunches, and bathroom breaks will be staggered to support cohort levels. In order to reduce student contact in hallways, the use of lockers will be prohibited. There will be clearly marked designated entrances and exits for students.
Students in Grades 9 to 12 will be expected to wear a cloth mask while at school. There will be enhanced protocols, including cleaning of high touch surfaces, regular opportunities for hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, and use of personal protective equipment (PPE), where advised and necessary.
Specific details about bell times will be provided by the school prior to Sept. 8. Schools have been asked to significantly limit or even prohibit visitors, including parents. Mental health and well-being supports will be available for students.
Distance Learning:
• Remote instruction and learning will be provided on-line with support for devices and connectivity for families where applicable and possible.
• Students participating in remote learning who are not able to access on-line materials will receive remote delivery of paper materials. Not all optional courses will be available to secondary students in remote learning, e.g. construction courses. Mental health and well-being supports will be available for students.
Transportation Considerations:
• Enhanced public health protocols will be in place on buses and buses will be disinfected twice daily.
• Bus drivers will be wearing personal protective equipment.
• A seating plan will be established designed to minimize contact between students. This may include siblings sitting together on the bus. All students in Grades 4 to 12 must wear a cloth mask while on the bus. All students in primary grades will be encouraged to wear a cloth mask while on the bus.
Fall Re-Opening Student Survey
Parents and guardians have an important and personal choice to make regarding their child’s education over the coming months. In order to assist us in the planning for September, we are asking all families to complete a Fall Re-Opening Student Survey by Monday, August 17th at 4 p.m. to let us know whether: 
• Your child(ren) will be returning to school, which will be following the cohorting guidelines and enhanced public health protocols, including the mandatory wearing of masks for all students in Grades 4-12. 
• Your child(ren) will participate in a distance learning model that would allow learning to continue from home.
Important note: Moving/switching your child from in-class to distancing learning will be carefully managed in order to maintain the Ministry’s cohorting guidelines, i.e., 50 students contacts at elementary and 100 contacts at secondary. We will be following a defined process where students moving from one model to another can only occur at appropriate times within the year, e.g., at the beginning of a quadmester. 
We recognize that this is a difficult choice for families. Our priority is to ensure the safety, well-being and learning of our students. We are working carefully through our planning process and know that there are still many questions to be answered. Over the coming weeks, please continue to refer to the School Re-Opening Section of our website where we will continue to update our Q&A Document and post more information as it becomes available. 
We thank you for your continued patience, support and prayers as we put our return to school plan into action. 
Sincerely,
Catherine McCullough, Interim Director of Education 

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