A Note from Darren Lewis (Superintendent)
A quick and important note: This communication contains a lot of important information. We know that it’s a bit lengthy and apologize for that. Amongst other things, it includes a reintroduction of staggered start and stop times to our daily schedules.
First, thanks for your patience this week as we’ve been working hard to ensure that we can reopen safely and be prepared to move online should we be required to close a portion or all of the school due to either a health or functional closure.
Health Closure: A closure due to concerns related to COVID spread at school. Typically, this type of closure would occur based on advice or a directive from the health authorities.
Functional Closure: A closure due to the school’s inability to staff the regular and safe day-to-day operations of the school. The Health Authorities are recommending that businesses plan for up to a 30% absenteeism rate due to self-isolation and/or illness. A decision to have a functional closure would be made by the school after consulting with our representatives on the Provincial Rapid Response Team (an advisory group representing both public and independent schools on issues related to COVID).
How can we help avoid school closures?
1) Don’t send your children to school if they are sick.
Clearly no one wants to move to online instruction. The single most important thing any of us can do is not to send our children to school if they are sick. If your child is exhibiting cold or flu-like symptoms, they should not come to school. Families should continue to complete the daily health check prior to sending children to school each day (here’s a pdf of the health check chart). If students exhibit cold or flu-like symptoms they will be sent home (unless we have been advised that these are related to something like seasonal allergies).
2) Ensure that your child brings a mask to school each day and encourage them to wear it as required. We know that masks are only one piece of a multi-layered approach to safety; our hope is that the cumulative effect of all the efforts will make a difference.
Well-fitting masks must be worn properly (covering nose, mouth and chin). Mask exemptions are only available after discussion with the Principal and must be accompanied by distancing from other students or generally wearing a mask when distance is not possible. Exemptions are for medical or behavioural reasons only, not preference. Please note that mask exemptions on school buses or field trips are generally not available and would likely require medical documentation or be evidenced by an existing Individualized Education Plan.
What additional things is the school doing to avoid closures?
- Upgraded our ventilation systems where possible to use MERV13 filtration as recommended by the Education ministry.
- Installed HEPA filtration in a number of high priority areas.
- Ordered additional HEPA filtration systems for the remaining instructional areas that are not covered by MERV13. We’re expecting these systems to arrive this coming week.
- Further restricted access to the buildings for visitors. For instance, spectators will no longer be allowed to attend sporting events/games.
- Encouraged staff to transition to KN95 (or N95) masks. We have had difficulty sourcing the volume we need but are hoping that these will begin to arrive this week.
- Reinstituted staggered starts and ends to the day.
Staggered morning entry
To help spread out students as they arrive at school, we are formalizing staggered drop-off alphabetically:
- Families with last names starting with A – L should drop off students at 8:20 AM (9:00 AM on Wed).
- Families with last names starting with M – Z should drop off students at 8:30 AM (9:10 AM on Wed).
Staggered dismissal (this one may seem complicated; contact us if you have any questions!)
2:45 PM dismissal/pick-up for:
- Grade 8 and Grade 9 students
- Elementary students who have siblings in Grade 8 or 9 (and not older grades)
- Elementary-only families whose last names start with A – L.
2:55 PM dismissal/pick-up for:
- Grade 10-12 students
- Elementary students who have siblings in Grade 10-12.
- Elementary-only families whose last names start with M – Z.
What about OMICRON and the impact on Contact tracing and communication?
Omicron has been described as a ‘game changer’. Clearly it is much more contagious than earlier versions of the virus. Thankfully, it also appears to be less serious for most people. It is clear already, however, that contact tracing as we have known it, is not going to continue.
Given the new COVID testing protocols, most people with mild symptoms will not be tested. They are being advised to simply stay home unless they get worse or their symptoms don’t get better within 24 hours. This means that the school will not be in a position to know why a specific student is or is not at school and will generally not be advised of possible COVID cases. We are expecting that new reporting guidelines will be published in the next couple of days and will provide a further update after these have been received.
What about support while at home?
Understandably, the increased incidence as well as the talk of possible school closures is causing concern and some have wondered about support for their children while at home.
In March 2020 the provincial government agreed to allow ‘brick and mortar’ schools to provide online instruction. During 2021-22 the government rescinded this permission; however, it did provide some work around authority, so we were able to support students who were unable to return due to health concerns.
Currently, we are not in a position, however, to provide online instruction (except in the case of a school closure). If a student is ill and needs to stay home, we will as always seek to support that student. We cannot, however, provide an online education option at this time.
Elementary School Notes
Secondary School Notes
Extra measures are being implemented to reduce crowding and promote safety at this time. Key changes include:
- Staggered entry into the school (alphabetical as described earlier)
- No socializing in hallways; upon entry, students may access their locker, but then need to proceed directly to their classrooms.
- Outdoor lunch and breaks; students should come prepared to take their lunch and breaks outdoors.
- Split lunch break for Grade 8/9 and Grade 10-12:
- Grade 10-12 lunch will be after B-block (11:45 – 12:20)
- Grade 8/9 lunch will be after C-block (1:00 – 1:35)
- In indoor social spaces, students should limit groups to 6 or fewer.
- If eating indoors, students need to be seated or standing away from trafficked areas, and in groups of 6 or fewer.
- Classroom furniture will be arranged to maximize distance as much as possible.
- Staggered dismissal (see times described earlier) with expectation that students leave the building at their dismissal time unless they have a formal arrangement with a staff member (ex: for study support or sports practice).
- On Fridays, we continue to have a 2:25 PM end to class times, with Flex time until 2:55 PM. The difference will be that any students staying during the Flex time will need to be in a classroom space. This could be their last-period classroom, or it could be a room where they are meeting with a teacher for support. Students can also leave the building, but will not be able to be in the halls or gym.
- After-hours expectations are the same as above. If students are not respecting masking and limited group size after hours, they will be asked to leave the building.
- We will pause assemblies and group chapel gatherings at this time, instead holding chapel within homerooms and Connect groups.