COVID-19 Update – February 2022
Welcome! In this update, families can read about:
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Mental health supports – please see supports as the pandemic’s challenges continue.
It’s February and this month represents the midpoint of the school year. As we look forward to the spring, we are optimistic that our school communities will return to a more normal experience of learning.
Secondary school students and staff have started their four-course semester learning model, high-contact sports can resume with public health guidance, school-based vaccination clinics are being offered, and more options for families to receive their vaccinations are available.
We recognize that even though optimism is increasing, the impact and fatigue we have experienced from a two-year pandemic is still felt by families and staff. We are extremely grateful for your patience, kindness, and cooperation as we move through this next phase. We also want to acknowledge our education workers, school staff, and central staff for their dedication and work to support all our students through continued transitions and change.
This edition of COVID-19 Update for Families comes at a time of transition. We remain committed to health and safety. We respect that some families and staff may feel uneasy about how quickly the restrictions are being lifted provincially, and we will take a gradual approach to lifting COVID-19 measures where possible.
HWDSB is following the Ministry of Education direction for current protocols and measures. When the Ministry announces a change, we will respond accordingly, including communicating with staff and families through system and school-based messages. We encourage you to subscribe to both your school and the Board websites for automatic notices when there are updates.
There continues to remain layers of protections to support staff and students, such as expanded access to vaccines, optional non-fit tested N95 masks for education staff, three-ply masks for students, and the deployment of rapid tests to help reduce the risk.
Hamilton Public Health Services has provided no additional measures based on the nature of the Omicron variant. They have shifted their focus to support high-risk settings, which do not include schools.
While case management is no longer supported by public health, parents and guardians are welcome to continue optional self-reporting if their child/ren tests show positive for COVID-19. This self-reporting practice combined with the Government of Ontario’s school closures and attendance rate website provides families with information to make informed decisions.
We hope that you remain healthy and safe.
Dawn Danko, Chair of the Board
John Bryant, Interim Director of Education
Ontario Government Guidance
- Ontario Ministry Guide to Reopening Schools (Released August 3 –updated February 10, 2022)
- Ontario Ministry of Health COVID-19 Guidance (Updated December 30, 2022)
- Ministry of Education Immunization Disclosure and Testing Requirement Policy Vaccination (updated September 1, 2021)
- COVID-19: Interim Guidance for Schools and Child Care: Omicron Surge (Released January 13, 2022)
- Ontario Moving to Next Phase of Reopening on February 17
In this new phase of the pandemic, public health agencies are shifting their focus from education to higher-risk settings. We have changed our approach to case management, for example. We expect to see a gradual easing of health measures and will keep you informed along the way.
HWDSB Athletics continues to work with Hamilton Public Health Services (HPHS) and the Ministry of Education on the safe return to sport. This had involved a pause on high-contact sports and use of masks by all active participants in indoor sport.
On Feb. 10, 2022, the Ministry lifted the requirement to mask while playing indoor sport. Masks must be worn while on school premises but may be removed for active participation in sport. Athletes on the volleyball court may remove their mask but will put them back on when on the bench, for example.
Also, the pause on high-contact sport has been lifted, allowing the winter seasons of Basketball, Hockey and Water-polo to resume. HWDSB Athletics is working with the Return to Sport Committee and all Physical Education Heads to determine schedules and facility rentals.
Following provincial guidance, HWDSB programs will not require proof of vaccination for high-contact sport unless it is required by the facility where the sport occurs (e.g., City of Hamilton facilities). No spectators will be permitted at any HWDSB regular season game; spectators are allowed at playoff and championship games, as we review recent announcements. For more, see our February 14 Athletics Update. Note, rentals must follow guidelines for Community Use of Schools.
There are many convenient options now available for parents/guardians to have their children vaccinated for COVID-19.
- In-school elementary clinics will be held for students who have returned consents to their home school by Feb. 10. Parents/guardians are encouraged to attend with their children. Public Health will visit each elementary school that received parental consents before March Break. No child aged 5-11 will be vaccinated in a school day clinic without parental consent. Parents/guardians will be informed of the day and time of these clinics.
- After-hours school clinics: After-school clinics have been planned for February 1 – March 9 from 4:00-7:30 pm. Find a school clinic after school day hours listing online. Parents/guardians will be notified via School Messenger of any voluntary school-based COVID-19 vaccine clinic that is offered at, or open to their child’s Consent will happen at the clinic. Parents accompany their child and consent is given at the clinic.
- Hamilton Health Partners, mass or mobile vaccine clinics: COVID-19 vaccination clinics throughout the city of Hamilton. For clinic locations, eligibility and hours of operations, visit hamilton.ca/GetYourVaccine.
Also, today Hamilton Public Health Services and partners announced Hamilton’s COVID-19 vaccination program expanding to include booster doses for young people aged 12 to 17.
Wearing a well-fitting mask is one protective strategy against COVID-19 transmission that includes rigorous screening, distancing, cohorting, hand hygiene, and respiratory etiquette.
In addition to the three-ply cloth masks previously made available in schools, medical grade disposable masks (ASTM levels 1 or 2) will be made available to students upon request. Only one medical grade mask per day will be provided to students who request them. Please note that the ministry provided non-fitted N95 masks are not available to students.
Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs)
The Ministry of Education has provided two rapid antigen tests per person for symptomatic use as outlined in the revised symptom screener. The two rapid antigen tests provided are to be taken home and used at home ONLY when individuals are symptomatic.
If students are symptomatic at home, they are encouraged to stay at home and isolate and should not go to school to pick up a testing kit. Learn more about Testing for COVID-19 here.
When staff or students use the RATs at home as directed, they may request two additional tests upon return to school.
Changes to Screening Tool
On Feb. 7, the provincial COVID-19 School and Child Care Screening Tool was updated to match guidance from the Ministry of Health. The key change is that those who have tested positive (PCR or rapid test) within the last 90 days, have completed their isolation period, and do not have new symptoms are not required to isolate should a household member become symptomatic or test positive.
As secondary schools return to the regular semester schedule, we are also resuming the use of cafeterias with health measures in place. When students use the cafeterias, they will be cohorted by grade and maintain 2 m of distance between cohorts. We have confirmed that food services will be available pending staffing by our vendor. HEPA filters have been deployed to cafeterias.
Amid the stress of the pandemic, we want to stand firm on our guiding principles at HWDSB, as we support the health, safety and well-being of all students and staff throughout the pandemic.
As a school board, we are members of the broader public service and agents of the Ontario government. We provide information and express neutrality, inclusivity and respect.
We employ public measures at the direction of the ministries of health and education, as well as the Chief Ontario Medical of Health and Hamilton Public Health Services.
HWDSB is a community of care and compassion where we provide respectful, inclusive and kind places for everyone to learn and work, even when there are different opinions.
Yes, challenges persist. But together, we can continue to build inclusive classrooms, consider the emotions of others, and remain mindful of marginalized communities that have unique perspectives due to their history of trauma.
The short-term virtual learning option has been extended until the start of March Break. Families participating in short-term virtual learning can continue to access lesson plans on the Learn at Home page until Friday, March 11, 2022. The live lesson overview component will end on Friday, February 18.
Read more in the Short-Term Virtual Learning update.
Transition to Elementary Remote Learning 2021-22
All families who completed the Remote Learning Survey last month have transitioned to their new remote classrooms as of February 11. Approximately 2,100 students are currently registered in full-time elementary remote learning.
To start semester two, HWDSB is offering 172 eLearning classes from all subject areas. The total enrollment for secondary remote learning via eLearning in 2021-22 is 683 students. Secondary will continue to use eLearning as a remote option in 2022-23, if needed.
Emergency Remote Learning 2022-23
HWDSB has started to plan for the 2022-2023 school year. To ensure that staffing can be in place for the start of the school year it is necessary to beginning planning regarding remote learning for the 2022-2023 school year.
Families are invited to attend a virtual information session on Wednesday, February 16 at 6:00 p.m. for an overview of remote learning options for the 2022-2023 school year. Join via MS Teams at https://hwdsb.info/remote-learning-2022-23.
Please note that the Ministry has not yet confirmed a direction for remote learning for 2022-23, but to be proactive, staff has begun planning for an emergency remote program based on the existing dual track model. An intent to register will be available on the Parent Portal starting 8:00 a.m. February 17. This survey will close on February 24 at 11:59 p.m. Please contact your school if you have difficulties accessing the Parent Portal.
See the Remote Learning Planning for 2022-2023 update for more details.
Grade 9 Course Selections
Families who missed the Getting Ready for High School 2: How to Select Your Grade 9 Courses presentation on January 26 are invited to view the recording available here. This recording contains information on available high school pathways, course descriptions, choosing courses and electives, program options, and community involvement hour completion.
Frequently Asked Questions and other information are available on the How to Select Your Grade 9 Courses post here.
Elementary Report Cards will be distributed on February 18. In-person learners will receive paper reports, and remote learners will receive digital copies only.
Quadmester 2 reports for Secondary Students were distributed digitally on February 10.
Please note that elementary students who transitioned to full-time remote learning this month will receive their progress report from their original in-person teacher and not their new remote learning teacher. These progress reports will be made available after February 18. Please contact your child’s home school to arrange for a copy of their report card. The final report card in June will be completed by the remote learning teacher and will be sent electronically.
EQAO assessments have resumed for the 2021-2022 school year, with the following timelines:
- Grade 3 and 6 EQAO will be held between May 4 and June 24 for students learning in-person.
- Grade 9 math EQAO will be held in June for in-person students taking MTH1W in Semester 2
- The Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT) will be held between March 23 and May 18 for students in Grade 10, and for students in Grades 11 and 12 who have not successfully completed the assessment and will graduate in June 2023. Grade 12 students graduating in June 2022 do not need to take the assessment.
Provincial assessment data is critical to supporting our education system to better understand the impact of the pandemic over time and the learning recovery and renewal needs of our students. Assessments will take place on-line instead of through a paper exam. Schools will determine their EQAO timelines and communicate the exact assessment dates with the school community once confirmed.
Online Learning Graduation Requirement for Secondary Students
Students who started secondary school beginning September 2020 must earn a minimum of two online learning credits as part of the requirements for an Ontario Secondary School diploma. This requirement can be met through the successful completion of 2 eLearning courses.
Grade 9 students who earned a credit during Semester 2 in the 2020-2021 school year will be granted one credit towards the graduation requirement. Students may also be exempted from this requirement through an opt-out process. This process must be completed by a parent/guardian for students under the age of 18.
For questions about course selection and planning, please contact your guidance office.