Letter to Families, Enhanced COVID-19 Measures at HWDSB
January 21, 2022
As we planned for the return of in-person learning this week, we were delayed two days because of inclement weather and difficult road conditions. We thank parents and guardians for their cooperation, and we know that for some families, the two days presented an opportunity to support well-being activities during a challenging start to the new year.
Our return to in-person learning this week went well. Educators were excited to see students back and students were happy to be with their peers. We recognize that this time of significant change and transition is impacting our mental health. Please know that support is available.
Yesterday, the Parent Involvement Committee invited families to a virtual session on the return to in-person learning. There was a lot of participation and engagement as we reviewed Covid-19 updates and school operations for elementary and secondary schools. For those who may have missed the session, please watch a recording of the presentation here.
Testing for COVID-19
To slow the spread of COVID-19 and to continue to support school communities, HWDSB is pleased to offer rapid antigen test kits for symptomatic students and staff who are in person. This testing option is voluntary. Information has been shared with families as they received their tests this week. Learn more about Testing for COVID-19 at HWDSB.
Communicating self-reported positive test results
Although Ontario has stopped COVID-19 case management in schools, we have created a process to share information when staff and families tell a school about positive test results. This process is new and will be monitored and adjusted as we receive feedback.
Starting Monday, January 24, a parent/guardian can notify their child/ren’s principal of a positive student test result (PCR or RAT). Staff also have the option to self-report a positive test result. The school will post to their website without disclosing the name or position of the case. We encourage families to subscribe to their school website to get notifications of updates.
Self-reporting a test result is encouraged but voluntary. Any information that schools share with communities will not be confirmed by Hamilton Public Health Services (HPHS). This means that we cannot confirm the infectious period, but we want families to be able to make an informed decision about sending their child to school.
Guided by the Ministry of Health, HPHS will no longer dismiss cohorts of positive cases. Students and staff in schools are generally no longer considered high-risk contacts requiring isolation. Students and staff who do not have symptoms, who have not been advised to isolate, and who pass the COVID-19 School and Child Care Screening may go to school.
Families are reminded to continue following all public health protocols, including masking, physical distancing, and close monitoring of symptoms. Please follow the directions provided in the COVID-19 school and Child Care screening and stay home if your child is sick.
Attendance Rate Reporting
This week, principals began submitting daily attendance data of students and staff on a provincial platform. Starting Monday, January 24, this information will be made public, updated daily, and a link will be provided on the HWDSB web site to the provincial site. In addition, we are currently informing HPHS of any daily attendance rates that exceed 30 per cent attendance rate.
School-based COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics
HWDSB is working with HPHS to provide school-based vaccine clinics for children and youth. More details on this will be shared when clinics are confirmed. In the meantime, we encourage anyone to get a vaccine by visiting City of Hamilton’s COVID-19.
School Closure Preparedness and Advisories
Parents and guardians should be prepared if there is a school closure due to a public health concern or challenges with staffing. In these situations, a school may temporarily transition to remote learning and some classes may close if there is not an educator available. Families will be notified of the closure through School Messenger. We will give as much notice as possible, although in extreme circumstances, a decision could be made by 7:30 a.m. on the day impacted. School closures will be also be communicated through the HWDSB website.
Letter to Minister
In a letter to Education Minister Stephen Lecce, the Board of Trustees has shared concerns and requests found in two motions raised by Student Trustees and approved at the Monday, January 17, Board meeting. Both request action from Ontario’s government on issues of safety, equity and transparency.
The first motion asks that the Ministry of Education provide and fully fund medical grade level 2 masks and unfitted respirators (such as unfitted N95 and KN95 masks) for every student in the province, in the same way that unfitted respirators are being fully funded and provided to education staff. The second motion raises the concern that, at the height of the pandemic, the Ministry told school boards they no longer had to publicly report COVID-19 cases, public health units are no longer contact tracing for schools, and the province has reduced access to publicly funded PCR testing.
The letter requests that the province require that school boards resume the public reporting of suspected COVID-19 cases identified through Rapid Antigen Tests and continue to publicly report confirmed cases identified by PCR tests. This practice aligns with the democratic values of public accountability and transparency. Please see the information on communicating self-reported positive test results (above) to learn how our Board is going above and beyond Ministry expectations for reporting when there is a self-reported positive case in a school.
Thank you to families who completed the Elementary Remote Survey this past week. We are currently processing requests and will share more information next week about the transition to full-time remote learning for families who have requested this change. Learn more about the short-term virtual learning option.
HWDSB will not participate in the Grade 9 EQAO assessment during Quadmester Two, to provide more time for instruction and culminating activities in the remaining days of this quadmester. We plan to resume our participation in Semester 2.
Our Math teachers will use their professional judgment to determine the culminating activity or activities that may replace the EQAO assessment. If you have any questions, please reach out to your student’s teacher or principal.
We remind anyone who received a loaned device for the temporary remote learning period to return their device. Please label the device with the child’s name and return any cables or charging blocks included with the device.
Thank you again for doing your part to keep our schools open and safe by active screening, keeping your child/ren home when ill and encouraging them to follow the health and safety protocols both in and out of school.
Keep safe and stay well,
Dawn Danko, Chair of the Board
Manny Figueiredo, Director of Education