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Province announces return to school plans; HPEDSB preparations under way

Sean Monteith

The Ministry of Education announced plans for a return to school in September on Thursday, Sept. 3.

“We appreciate the direction from the Ministry of Education about reopening schools in September. Now that we have this information, we can finalize plans for all Hastings Prince Edward District School Board schools,” said Sean Monteith, Director of Education. “We know that that students, parents/guardians and staff may be feeling anxious during these uncertain times. We are doing our best to be nimble in order to adjust to this dynamic situation and commit to providing updates as timely as possible.”

The return to school plans are based on advice, guidance and directives of the Ministry of Education and the provincial health officials, and are in consultation with local public health officials. Staff are working closely with public health, neighbouring school boards, Tri-Board Student Transportation Services, community partners and staff.

Monteith sats staff will be focusing on every day strategies to support educators and students for a mentally-healthy return to school, encourage inclusivity, build trust and create the optimal conditions for learning and development.

“The decision to send children to school remains the choice of parents/guardians. HPEDSB always respects and honours that parent choice,” he said. “In the coming days, outreach will occur with parents/guardians to assist in understanding the number of students to be in school in September.”

“We realize that the decision to send children to school is an incredibly difficult one. To prepare our schools to be as best and responsive as possible, we will be contacting families in the days ahead to get an idea of parent intentions,” said Monteith.

Highlights from the Ministry of Education Reopening Plan:

Elementary schools
Elementary schools will reopen with conventional in-person delivery of teaching and instruction, with enhanced health and safety protocols
Elementary school students in Kindergarten to Grade 8 will attend school five days per week, with 300 minutes of instruction per day, remaining in one cohort (learning group) for the full day, including recess and lunch
Cohorted classes will stay together and with one teacher, where possible. Students can expect to see changes in the timing of recesses, lunches, and bathroom breaks as they are staggered to support cohorting
Specialized teachers, like French teachers, will still be able to go into classrooms to provide the full breadth of programming for students
Students will also be able to leave their classrooms to receive additional supports but direct and indirect contacts in schools for students should be limited to approximately 50
School boards will provide the full range of elementary curriculum, including the new Grades 1-8 Mathematics curriculum

Secondary schools
Secondary schools in non-designated school boards, such as HPEDSB, will be permitted to open with conventional delivery, with enhanced health and safety protocols
All school boards are encouraged to adopt timetabling methods that emphasize cohorting (learning group) of students as much as possible, to limit the number of student-to- student contacts
In order to reduce risk of transmission and to support contact tracing, school boards are to develop timetables that over a 1 to 2-week period:
limit indirect and direct student contacts to approximately 100 students in the school; and
are encouraged to keep secondary school students in a maximum of two in-person class cohorts

Multiple strategies to support healthy and safe environments for students and staff
Self screening
Adapted school environments with 1 meter distancing required at all sites
Hand hygiene
Students in Grades 4 to 12 will be required to wear non-medical or cloth masks while in school
Students in Kindergarten to Grade 3 will be encouraged but not required to wear masks in common spaces
Medical masks will be provided for teachers and all school staff
Schools boards are able to establish reasonable exceptions
Limiting visitors in schools

Support for families
Parents will make decisions regarding in-person attendance for their children for this school year and will have the option of remote (online) learning
Students with a high level of special education needs who are unable to study remotely will be permitted daily attendance and instruction

School health monitoring system
A new school health monitoring system will be established through a partnership between the ministries of Health and Education, school boards and local public health to monitor and respond to reports of COVID-19 symptoms. Students or staff who develop COVID-19 symptoms will immediately be separated from others
Staff and parents/guardians will be directed to consult their health provider and will be provided with COVID-19 testing locations. Persons who test positive may not return to school until they are cleared by public health. Persons who test negative can return one they are symptom-free for 24 hours
Schools will immediately report any suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19
Schools will ensure records of classes, transported students and visitors are maintained and readily available to be provided to public health for contact tracing
School staff will receive training on required processes and procedures
The ministries of Education and Health are working together to provide testing capacity to keep schools safe and treat any affected student or teacher/staff member

“As a parent myself, I fully appreciate how confusing these times are for students and families. Terms such as cohorting, distancing and adaptive learning add more confusion. We remain steadfastly committed to reassuring our parents/guardians that the number one priority is the safety of their children, our students, our staff and our families,” added Monteith.

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