What to expect when schools reopen Monday
In-person learning returns Feb. 1 but with some changes
In-person school is back for boards in eastern Ontario on Monday, but parents and students will notice a few changes since December.
The province announced Thursday that boards within the areas covered by Ottawa Public Health and the Eastern Ontario Health Unit will be permitted to resume in-person learning on Feb. 1.
The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board are taking precautionary measures that include:
- Students and staff must complete a screening survey from Ottawa Public Health before going to school.
- Staff and secondary students will need to confirm they've done the self-assessment.
- Students in Grade 1 to 3 are now required to wear a mask.
- Encouraging kindergarten students to also wear a mask.
- Students in all grades are expected to wear masks indoors and outdoors, including at recess.
"Will Monday be perfect? Probably not, because some of our families will also need to make adjustments," said Camille Williams-Taylor, director of education for the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board.
"But we know that we certainly are doing everything to ensure that our classrooms are ready."
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She said the biggest challenge in keeping schools open is to make sure the community continues to follow other public health measures in place.
"We want to keep people safe and it is in fact controlling spread in the community that will translate into opening our schools, keeping our schools open and keeping our numbers very low," Williams-Taylor said.
School buses will also be operating next week.
For Ottawa Catholic School Board, director of education Tom D'Amico said there are some "logistical challenges" when it comes to transportation.
D'Amico says the board is working with the Ottawa Student Transportation authority to make sure it has as many routes running for Monday.
The board has also ordered an additional 156 air filters to be placed in kindergarten classrooms throughout the district, and has set up isolation rooms for students who may be showing symptoms of COVID-19 while at school.
Both boards said they will be educating parents and students about refraining from after-school activities, like play dates with other households.
"With our secondary students, it's a little more challenging. Just the nature of those students, they certainly want that social interaction," D'Amico said.
"We have to give them some responsibility that the decisions they're making can impact not only their own lives, but those of their parents and their grandparents."
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During a briefing Thursday, Dr. Paul Roumeliotis said the Eastern Ontario Health Unit will be working with schools in that region on enhanced screening measures come Monday.
Nurses will be going into classrooms to refresh students on health measures and to answer any questions.
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With files from Joanne Chianello