Back to School Update – 2021-2022 School Year

Welcome Back

The school year 2021-2022 starts Tuesday, September 7. The Ottawa Catholic School Board is delighted to welcome back students and staff to both in-person and virtual learning.

Our Schools are Safe

Last year, before vaccinations, our layered approach to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 worked.  Over 99% of our students and staff did not get COVID-19 while attending school last school year. This year we will continue with our layered approach to mitigate the risks of COVID-19. The Ministry of Education has issued a comprehensive health and safety measures document. These guidelines continue to be updated. We anticipate some additional public health safety measures being implemented before the start of school. We will keep you informed as new information becomes available.

Enhanced Safety Measures for September

Based on the success of last year’s safety measures, we will be starting the school year with the following enhancements to the Ministry of Education guidance. The following are on hold for September:

  • Field trips
  • Large group indoor assemblies
  • Non-essential visitors

We will also be limiting the mixing of cohorts wherever possible for the first month of the school year.

Ventilation Improvements and Health and Safety Measures

Since the beginning of last year, we have invested over 15 million dollars in improved ventilation across our system and close to 26 million dollars in overall COVID mitigation practices within our schools. Thanks to  provincial and federal government funding, we were able to make the following improvements:

  • All school ventilation systems have been inspected and optimized
  • Over 1000 portable HEPA air filter units have been placed in targeted areas such as kindergarten rooms, special education rooms, and isolation rooms
  • UV-light ceiling fans have been installed in 200 classrooms
  • Unit ventilators have been installed in 220 portables, with the added benefit of cooling capabilities
  • Touchless water bottle filling stations and touchless washroom fixtures have been placed throughout many schools
  • Enhanced maintenance of HVAC equipment with additional filter changes and optimization of fresh air intake
  • Every classroom has available hand sanitizer and/or soap and water
  • Touchpoint cleaning continues in every school throughout the day
  • Directional signage to remind everyone to maximize physical distances where possible
  • Masks will be mandatory for all staff and students from Kindergarten to 12
  • By September 3rd, we will post  on the Board website a summary of each school’s HVAC status

Student Vaccines

All children born in 2009 are eligible to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. You can book appointments through the provincial booking system, pharmacies, or public health vaccine clinics across the city or the province.

If a Student is Fully Vaccinated

If your child is fully vaccinated and is exposed to someone who tests positive for COVID-19, they do not need to self-isolate as long as they do not have symptoms and are not directed otherwise by Ottawa Public Health (OPH).

If a Student is Not Vaccinated

If your child is not vaccinated and is exposed to someone who tests positive for COVID-19 and is considered a high-risk contact, they will be required to isolate for ten days as directed by OPH.  OCSB schools will work with Ottawa Public Health and follow their direction.

Vaccinated Outside Ontario

If your child (or anyone else in your family) received one or more doses of a COVID-19 vaccine outside of the Province of Ontario (e.g., Quebec or outside of Canada), please complete this form to notify Ottawa Public Health of your out-of-province dose administration.

Staff Vaccines

Our Board of Trustees also unanimously passed a motion on Tuesday, August 31 to direct senior administration to develop a mandatory vaccination policy for all board staff.

At this time, there is no provincial or Board policy for our employees regarding mandatory vaccinations. In the short term, staff will continue to follow the Ministry of Education directive.

As per the Ministry of Education directive, all School Board staff are required to:

  • provide proof of complete vaccination against COVID-19 by September 7; or
  • provide a  documented medical reason for not being vaccinated against COVID-19, or
  • be tested regularly and participate in a vaccination education program

This requirement applies to all School Board employees, School Board Trustees, student transportation drivers, frequent essential visitors and other professionals who deliver school services. An individual’s vaccination status is private information and is not permitted to be disclosed.  By September 15th, all School Boards in Ontario will post on their websites non-identifying data indicating the percentage of staff across the School Board who have not been fully vaccinated.

Screening

All in-person students and staff must self-screen. The purpose of the Screening Tools are to help parents and guardians decide whether their child should attend school/child care. Daily screening is mandatory before attending school or child care facilities.

Masks

Students in Kindergarten to 12 are required to wear non-medical masks indoors regardless of vaccination status. Students must wear masks indoors in school, including in hallways and during classes and on school vehicles. Students are not required to wear masks outdoors if they can maintain physical distancing.

We’ve updated our mask mandates please see our post regarding the matter.

Staff Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Our educators and support staff will follow all Ottawa Public Health guidelines, including wearing masks and additional PPE when required.

School Visitors

Visitors must wear a medical mask and self-screen for COVID-19 symptoms before entering the school. Only essential visitors will be allowed in schools for September.

Mental Health Resources-Ottawa Public Health

Ottawa Public Health wants you to know, “It is normal to feel stressed, and it is okay not to be okay.” After all, we are all living in a pandemic. Keeping that in mind, OPH partnered with the Royal Mental Health Care Centre to develop the Protecting your Mental Health Series.

For more information, please check out:

In addition, you may find the Pandemic Parenting Playbook will provide practical tips to support children and youth’s mental health needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Mental Health Multilingual Videos    provide information on protecting your mental health, including suggestions for parents. These videos are available in English, French, Arabic, Somali, and Mandarin.

Elementary Students

We will continue to have elementary students attend school five days a week with enhanced health and safety protocols. Students in kindergarten through to Grade 8 will remain cohorted during the day. As required for programming, teachers will rotate into the class to support students in different curriculum areas. This year students will have access to shared spaces like learning commons and cafeterias while wearing masks and social distancing.

Elementary School Year Calendar

School year calendars will be distributed to all elementary students during the first week of school. The school year calendar lists school holidays and other important dates. You can also add our digital calendars to your personal calendars and devices to track important dates.

Elementary (K-6) Recess

In September we will use a cautious approach and continue to minimize the mixing of cohorts at recess. Students do not need to wear masks outside if physical distancing between cohorts can be maintained.

Elementary School Lunches

Elementary students will continue to eat their lunch with their cohort in their classrooms. This practice is the same as last year.

Kindergarten Students

You will be contacted directly by a member of your child’s school to develop an entry plan for your child. Our goal is to make the process seamless and support your child as they begin their school journey with the OCSB.

OCSB Offers Flexibility

OCSB families looking for a more flexible return to an in-person schedule can contact their child’s Principal to design a personalized approach to learning. We are here to help make the return to school accessible to all. Together we can make this work for your family’s specific needs.

High School Students

The quadmester model will continue for OCSB high school students choosing in-person learning for the first semester. In-person students will take two classes daily in September with five instructional hours per day. Unlike last year, high school students will attend in person every day.  Students attending St. Josephine virtual high school will follow the four-course per semester model for the entire school year.

High School School Year Calendar

You can download the high school calendars to your calendars and devices to track important dates, including school holidays and summer school schedules.

Sports, Health and Physical Activity

In support of our student’s physical fitness, mental health and well-being.

  • Extracurricular activities, including a full complement of sports, will be available in all OCSB Schools this fall.
  • We will follow the Ministry’s COVID-19: Health, Safety and Operational Guidance for Schools 2021-2022 and seek ongoing guidance from Ottawa Public Health.
  • Extracurriculars are optional activities for students who wish to participate.
  • We are also offering extracurricular activities in our two virtual schools.

Intermediate and High School Lunches

Intermediate and High School Principals will continue to arrange lunch routines based on the size of the school, scheduling availability and the ability to use different areas of the school for lunch. Principals may implement multiple lunch hours to minimize the number of students gathering at any one time during the day.  This practice is similar to the successful model we implemented last year. High School students have always had the opportunity to leave the school property for lunch or eat outside, which will continue.

Music

Students will be allowed to sing indoors as long as they remain within their cohort, wear masks, and keep their distance. Outdoor singing will be permitted without a mask if distancing is maintained between cohorts. If this cannot happen, students will be required to wear a mask.

Wind instruments are not allowed indoors. Students can use wind instruments outdoors if distancing can be maintained between cohorts.

Virtual Schools

Students from across the Board can attend one of our virtual schools (Blessed Carlo Virtual School or St. Josephine Virtual High School). Families will be required to make a year-long commitment to virtual learning. If you wish to move your children to a virtual school, you will need to complete a cross-boundary transfer form, found on this page of our Board website: https://www.ocsb.ca/our-schools/boundaries. Complete the form and email it to your school.

Equipment Return

If you have not already done so, please return all school-owned Chromebooks and/or internet hotspot devices on the first day of school.  Devices will be disabled remotely until proper software and security updates can be applied in person at the school.

Thank You Message from Director Thomas D’Amico

As summer comes to an end, we are cautiously optimistic and excited to welcome back students and staff. Our community’s vaccination rate is presently sitting at an impressive 85% for those aged 12 and older. We continue to encourage those eligible to receive a vaccination to review the Ottawa Public Health information.

It takes working together to keep our schools safe. By taking a cautious, layered approach, including vaccinations, daily screening, take-home tests, masks, tracking of cohorts, limiting our contacts and physical distance, we will have a greater opportunity to keep our schools safe and open throughout the entire school year. Our administrators, educators and support staff are committed to doing everything they can to provide your children with safe, encouraging, faith-filled learning environments.

Thank you for everything you have done to encourage your children to embrace innovative learning practices, model physical distancing, and promote mask-wearing and handwashing practices. Your efforts are making a difference in the lives of your children and the greater community.

We look forward to seeing everybody on Tuesday, September 7.

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