Masks, backpacks, water bottles: Your COVID-19 guide to back-to-school supplies
Ottawa's school boards have released guidelines to help keep classrooms safe
September means a return to class for Ottawa students — at least, for those whose parents and guardians have opted to send them back this fall for in-person learning.
For those uncertain about how returning to class in the middle of a pandemic will work, the city's school boards have sent out lists of guidelines and recommended supplies to help keep schools safe.
Here are some things to keep in mind when you're out shopping.
Cloth or disposable masks
Ontario's Ministry of Education has mandated that masks be worn by students in Grade 4 and up.
Some school boards are strongly recommending younger students also wear masks, which must follow the school's dress code.
The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) recommends masks be stored in Ziploc bags that have the student's name written on it.
The board is advising against students keeping masks on lanyards, citing safety concerns.
OCDSB students are allowed to take off their masks outside, as long as they're staying two metres apart from others. Parents are advised to have their children practice wearing a mask.
According to the OCDSB and the Ottawa Catholic School Board (OCSB), water fountains won't be used.
Students are asked to bring a labelled water bottle to school instead.
Hand sanitizer and tissues
Students at schools with the OCSB and the Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est (CECCE) are encouraged to bring a personal hand sanitizer bottle.
Conseil des écoles publiques de l'Est de l'Ontario (CEPEO) elementary school students must bring their own tissue paper so that children don't all stick their hands in the same box.
A single pair of shoes
The OCSB says it's trying to avoid crowding in hallways as students change footwear, so students are being urged to not bring more than one pair of shoes to school.
An extra pair of shoes can be left at a child's desk, however.
Students at OCDSB schools also are being asked not to bring extra shoes.
The two boards say they'll revisit this decision when the weather changes.
No sharing supplies
When it comes to buying basic school supplies like pencils and notebooks, the recommendations have largely remained the same — although this year, students aren't supposed to share those supplies.
The CEPEO says any supplies that are shared will need cleaning between uses. The OCSB says classroom pencil sharpeners can still be used, but will also have to be cleaned after each use.
Meanwhile, the OCDSB says school supplies will be on-hand for students to use, but families can still buy supplies if they want to.
If they do, students should label and store these items in a pencil case. The OCDSB has released a list of supplies that parents can consult to figure out what's needed for each grade.
Children at OCSB schools won't have access to lockers or cubbies. All bags and clothing will instead be kept in a personal space in the classroom designated for that child.
All CEPEO elementary school students will keep their supplies in a container on their desks. Personal items like backpacks or lunch boxes will be stored separately and taken home each day.
High school students will keep these items at their desks or tables throughout the day and should bring as few items as possible with them.
CECCE students may also bring backpacks, but parents are encouraged to minimize the number of personal belongings their children take with them.
According to the board, these items must be labelled and will be kept in a designated spot at the school.
OCDSB students will stash all their items at their desk. Cubbies and lockers also won't be accessible.
Toys stay at home
While younger children may want to bring their favourite toys with them, parents with children at OCDSB schools are asked to keep these items at home.
No sharing food
The OCSB says its microwaves won't be available for students, nor will there be any food services until later in the year.
Parents should ensure students can open food containers on their own. Snacks are not to be shared.
The OCDSB is advising parents to equip their children with their own utensils. Students will be expected to take all food containers and related garbage back home with them.
Parents of CECCE students are being told to prepare cold lunches, accompanied by a small labelled water bottle. All compost or garbage must be brought home.
OCSB and CEPEO students who own electronic devices are encouraged to bring them.
According to the OCSB, if a child can bring their own technology, that will free up a school-provided device without the need for cleaning it between uses.
OCDSB says students will spend a greater amount of time outside this school year and should dress for a variety of weather conditions.
Parents should pack boots and extra socks on rainy days, the board says.
The OCSB says some of its teachers could have their own list of items they're recommending parents buy before children board the school bus.