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What will the 2020-21 school year be like?
The Ministry of Education has asked school boards to prepare for three scenarios. Based on the public health circumstances, school boards will be directed on which scenario to adopt. We may need to switch from one scenario to another during the school year.
- Scenario A: all students return to school with regular routines and enhanced public health protocols.
- Scenario B: a modified school-day routine with smaller class sizes, grouping of students in cohorts and in-school attendance on alternate days or weeks, with enhanced public health protocols.
- Scenario C: no in-school routines; students continue to learn from home with enhanced remote delivery.
What health and safety measures will be in place?
With Hamilton Public Health guidance, we are reviewing and modifying practices to enhance student and staff safety. This involves three main areas of focus:
- Student and staff screening – these processes will emphasize the need for students and staff to remain home if they feel unwell, have symptoms of COVID-19 or if someone that they have come in close contact with is ill with suspected or positive COVID-19 in the past 14 days.
- Hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette – these processes will be emphasized through signage and direct, age-appropriate teaching, effective hand washing/sanitizing, sneezing and coughing techniques.
- Physical distancing – this process will be emphasized through signage and direct, age-appropriate teaching, what it means to be physically distanced. This will involve structural changes to the layout of classrooms (e.g. desks 2 metres apart), plexiglass barriers and signage throughout the school.
What is a cohort?
Cohorting means grouping students together while they are at school to reduce the possible spread of COVID-19 . Hamilton Public Health and the Ministry of Education support this practice. Multiple staff may interact with the students however students should only interact with others within their cohort. The number of staff interacting with the cohort should be minimized. At this point in time, if one member of the cohort is diagnosed with COVID-19, all students and staff connected with the cohort will likely be asked to self-isolate by Hamilton Public Health. Cohorting limits the potential spread of COVID-19. Hamilton Public Health recommends designing a model for Scenario B with students being part of only one cohort and then consider when there might be a need for exceptions.
Do I need to send my child to school?
Attending school in-person will be voluntary for as long as the public health circumstances dictate. Parents, guardians, and caregivers choosing not to send their child to school in-person during this time will be offered remote learning. Where possible, this remote learning will continue within the structure of the child’s assigned class and teacher(s).
How else will 2020-21 be different from past years?
The health and well-being landscape of the community as a result of COVID-19 is constantly evolving. Staff continue to consult with Hamilton Public Health on school opening details including:
- Physical distancing, including the use of outdoor spaces, staggered entry, exit, nutrition breaks and recess schedules.
- Visual cues and signage related to COVID-19 symptoms and prevention measures.
- Limiting parents, visitors, and volunteers coming into schools.
- Hand washing/sanitizing stations, including their staggered use to avoid congestion and enhance hygiene.
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as masks, recommended by Hamilton Public Health for staff providing personal care to students who may come into contact with bodily fluid.
- Cleaning and sanitizing: We use hospital grade disinfectant cleaner for regular cleaning, so we will focus on frequent cleaning of high touch surfaces (e.g. railings, door knobs, washrooms) twice a day and regular cleaning beyond that. We will discourage use of shared items that cannot be cleaned between uses.
- Suspected COVID-19 procedures for staff to follow if a student or staff member feels unwell during the school day, including contact tracing by Hamilton Public Health.
- Transportation including cleaning protocols and physical distancing.
- Staff learning to support student and staff safety.