COVID Update – March 2022
Welcome! In this update, families can read about:
- Visitors in Schools
- Immunization Catch-up Clinics
- Summer programming
- Remote learning in 2022-23
Keep up to date on the latest COVID-19 developments. Questions or comments? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Mental health supports – please see supports as the pandemic’s challenges continue, specifically Community Supports and Mental Health Resources for Students (March 2022)
Throughout the pandemic, HWDSB has been focused on supporting students, families, and staff with enhanced public health measures. We have built good habits and developed new routines.
This past month, we experienced a change in the COVID-19 response that reduced requirements and eased restrictions. At HWDSB, we have followed provincial guidance with continued mask requirements through a transition period.
As of Monday, April 4, we are strongly encouraging mask wearing in our mask friendly school and work environments, but no longer require masks or mask exemptions. We thank you for showing kindness and respect as we honour varying comfort levels with respect to masking in our schools and community. We remind families to continue daily screening and we will support good hand and respiratory hygiene in schools going forward.
Throughout the spring we will remain focused on the health and safety of students and staff, as well as the achievement and well-being goals of our students. Trustees will work through the 2022-23 budget process with a final approval in June. We are pleased to have COVID-19 funding in the budget that can be used to provide additional supports for student well-being and achievement, as the pandemic has had impacts on many of our students.
The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed systemic challenges and opportunities for us to improve outcomes for students, especially for current and historically underserved students.
The COVID-19 Updates for Families publication has been a helpful tool to guide families through the changes in health measures or school operations during the pandemic. We are committed to sharing updates with families and will publish at least one more publication in this format before the end of the school year. Please see this update for up-to-date information about masking, screening, visitors in schools, and more.
Dawn Danko, Chair of the Board
John Bryant, Interim Director of Education
As a reminder, measures including cohorting, distancing, immunization disclosure, confirmation of screening were lifted Monday, March 21. Families are strongly encouraged to continue daily screening and to stay home when you are sick.
Students and staff are to wear masks in schools and on yellow school buses until April 1, after which we will continue to strongly encourage everyone to continue masking.
Likewise, all visitors are strongly encouraged to wear a mask in schools; medical masks will continue to be offered and provided on request when visitors check in at the school office.
Under provincial regulations, masks must still be worn on public transit. HSR thanks all students for continuing to wear your mask over your nose, mouth and chin at all times while riding the bus. Visit Hamilton.ca/ReadyToRide for HSR’s 7-point plan to keep you safe on public transit.
As always, we ask that everyone be respectful, kind, and considerate as we adjust to changes.
Under current federal travel regulations, individuals returning from international travel (including the U.S.) must wear a mask at all times when in public spaces (including schools and childcare), maintain a list of all close contacts for the first 14 days in Canada, and monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19.
Changes to the Screening Tool
The provincial COVID-19 School and Child Care Screening Tool was updated March 21 to match guidance from the Ministry of Health.
You must stay home if you have COVID-19 symptoms or are waiting for test results after experiencing symptoms. Anyone who is sick or has any symptoms of illness, including those not listed in this screening tool, should stay home and seek assessment from their health care provider if needed.
As families may know, HWDSB has received hundreds of HEPA air purifiers to deploy for this school year, as well as funding for additional units, filters and other supplies.
We have deployed 1,096 high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration units at HWDSB, as per Ministry direction, in schools without mechanical ventilation, and in kindergarten spaces regardless of the ventilation system in place.
In some good news, we just learned that we will receive an additional 1,414 HEPA units. These are to be placed in occupied learning spaces – such as classrooms/portables, gyms, libraries and lunchrooms – that have mechanical ventilation but without MERV-13 (a filter rating for small particulates). Units will be deployed as quickly as possible.
Capacity Limits and Cohorting
As we have noted, cohorting and distancing has been lifted for all schools, inside and at recesses and lunch time. School staff may use zones for grades or divisions during this transition period.
Shared spaces such as libraries/learning commons, labs, theatres and auditoria can be fully utilized without distancing. Classes can be combined if necessary to support student safety.
This means that we can resume programs across grades such as reading buddies, as well as events including assemblies, performances, open houses, formals, proms and commencements can also be planned.
As pandemic restrictions ease, we are excited that visitors, volunteers and third-party providers can begin to plan visits to our schools.
As of March 21, permitted visitors included those for 1:1 parent meetings, in-person guest speakers to support program, visits by the ward Trustee with school Superintendent, spectators for arts and athletics events outside the school day, and media.
As of April 4, permitted visits include those by newly registering families or students, parents picking up students during the school day, larger meetings with parents and staff (e.g., IPRC, intake) and school volunteers (e.g., fundraising, excursions).
Visitors must check in at the office, to sign in and out of the school. All visitors will wait at the office until they are invited to the location inside the school where they will be for their visit. Schools will offer visitors a medical mask to wear during their visit.
As of March 29, 2022, Hamilton Public Health Services is offering catch-up vaccine clinics for students in grades 7-10 who missed their Grade 7 vaccines due to pandemic-related school closures.
Students can receive their first or second required dose at these clinics. COVID-19 vaccines will continue to be available at this vaccine clinic for eligible populations on a walk-in basis. Eligible individuals can receive a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time, if requested.
This vaccination series protects youth in our community from:
- Hepatitis B (Hep B)
- Meningococcal ACYW-135
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
Learn more and book appointments at www.hamilton.ca/catchupclinics or calling (905) 974-9848.
Parents and guardians are asked to update their youth’s vaccination records. More information on how to update these records can be found by visiting the Reporting Vaccines web page or by calling 905-540-5250.
HWDSB will be offering learning opportunities throughout the summer for students. Programs are being developed and new opportunities will be announced in May.
Plans are also underway to bring Focus on Youth to our community for the summer of 2022.
On February 17, the Province introduced Ontario’s Learning Recovery Action Plan. This five-point plan includes a provincial investment in tutoring supports for students to help bridge learning gaps due to COVID-19 disruptions. HWDSB will be providing more information on tutoring supports later this spring. Read the announcement here.
Information about upcoming EQAO assessments will be shared by schools in the coming weeks. Participating grades and provincial timelines are as follows:
- Grade 3 and Grade 6 EQAO will take place in May and June
- 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 take place in April and May. Students in grades 10, 11 or 12 who have not successfully completed the assessment and will not be graduating in June 2022 will participate in OSSLT.
Please contact your student’s school for more details.
Thank you to families of elementary students who completed the Remote Learning Intent to Register form last month. Approximately 110 elementary students have been registered in the English remote learning program for 2022-2023. An additional opportunity to transition between in-person and remote learning will take place prior to the start of the 2022-23 school year. More information will be shared at a later date.
Secondary eLearning will continue to be the secondary remote learning model at the HWDSB. Students interested in eLearning options should speak to their guidance office for more information.
Elementary Focus Program Review
Families and Community members are invited to participate in an information session on Elementary Focus Programs Review. The session will outline the purpose and scope of the review, provide time to complete a parent survey, and have a question-and-answer component. The deadline to participate is April 8, 2022. Learn more about our Elementary Focus Program Review here.