ALCDSB releases Return to Learning plan for 2021-2022 school year

The Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic District School Board office. Photo by Lucas Mulder.

On Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021, David DeSantis, Director of Education for the Algonquin Lakeshore Catholic District School Board (ALCDSB) shared a welcome back letter, including a return to school update, with families in the school board. The five-page letter details the board’s compliance with Public Health protocols and guidelines, and the Ministry of Education’s recently published directives.

“Through the lens of our gospel values, our focus during the upcoming school year will be the wellness and safety of our students and staff, while continuing to foster healthy relationships and productive collaboration with our community partners,” DeSantis said in the letter, adding that if parents have any questions they should contact their school directly.

ALCDSB provided the following notes on their return to school:

Students will return to in-person learning daily for the full school day, and elementary school students in Kindergarten through Grade 8 will remain in one cohort for the full day. Secondary students will follow the quadmester model (two courses per day), for at least the first half of the school year (September to January).

Remote learning is also available for ALCDSB students. Parents/guardians have until Monday, Aug. 30, 2021, at 4 p.m. to request their child move into the remote learning school, or return to the bricks and mortar school. Families are asked to contact their school’s administration to request a change.

Families should note that elementary students placed in the remote learning school will remain in remote school for the entire school year (2021-2022) and will not be allowed to transfer back to in-person learning during the school year. Secondary students that choose to learn remotely will be placed into the remote school for the first semester will have the option to move back to in-person learning for the second semester. Students in remote learning will not be able to participate in extracurricular activities with their bricks and mortar school.

ALCDSB will require distancing wherever possible between students, students and staff, and coworkers, as well as other Public Health measures such as daily screening, hand hygiene, cohorting, enhanced cleaning, and masking.

Masking is required for all students in grades one through 12 when indoors. Kindergarten students will be encouraged to wear masks, but it is not mandatory.

Students and staff will be required to self-screen daily. Parents will be provided with a COVID-19 checklist for daily screening of their children before arriving at
school and staff will complete a verification each day with students to ensure awareness of symptoms of COVID-19.

Before and after school programs will continue to operate in the same places as last year with continued health and safety protocols in place.

Elementary students will be able to eat together outdoors with no distancing requirements, or indoors with a minimum distance of two metres maintained between cohorts and as much distancing as possible within a cohort (for example, in their classroom). Outdoor recess will occur without masks, and distancing will be encouraged between cohorts along with appropriate hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette.

Secondary students will be permitted to eat off-campus and cafeterias will not be serving food during semester one.

In both elementary and secondary health and physical education courses, the use of gymnasiums, swimming pools, change rooms, weight rooms, indoor physical education equipment, and shared outdoor equipment are permitted with distancing. Masking is encouraged for indoor sports when they can be worn safely, based on activity.

“The ventilation systems in our Catholic schools have been inspected and are in good working order,” DeSantis said. “Ventilation systems will continue to be regularly inspected, maintained, and filters changed on a frequent basis throughout the school year to optimize operation. Furthermore, all classrooms in all ALCDSB schools will have portable HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) Purification unit(s) installed to increase the frequency of air filtration in these spaces.”

School Boards are awaiting further direction from the Ministry of Education around the application and implementation of the vaccination disclosure policy, but ALCDSB anticipates that all individuals covered by this policy will be required to submit a formal attestation of being “fully vaccinated” against COVID-19 and to provide proof of vaccination or participate in regular rapid antigen testing if not fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

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