Return to Learning Plan for the 2021-2022 School Year
Updated September 8, 2021: Extra-curricular activities section, specifically Inter-school sport activities
Updated September 3, 2021: Staff personal protective equipment (PPE) section
Updated September 1, 2021: Link added in the Ventilation section
Posted August 20, 2021
Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board is pleased to release updated guidance for a safe return to school in September 2021. We are confident that with the multiple layers of protective factors we have in place, we will enjoy a year of instruction, support and activity for all students. We know that regular school attendance is essential to student well-being and learning. With multiple layers of support, and inclusion of clubs and activities, we can attend to staff and student health, safety and well-being, and focus on student learning.
This plan is aligned with the Ministry of Education guidance document. Each section begins with a link to Ministry of Education directives, followed by the HPEDSB direction.
On behalf of all of us at HPEDSB, all the best for a safe and engaging school year!
Director of Education
Commitment to safe learning environments
HPEDSB is committed to the ongoing health, safety and well-being of students and staff. As a public school board, HPEDSB has a responsibility to ensure students and staff feel safe, and that protective measures are in place at schools and buildings.
This Return to Learning Plan is based on the latest direction from the Ministry of Education, provincial and local public health, and aligns with the Ministry of Education Protective Strategies directives.
There is not one specific measure that will prevent COVID-19 transmission from occurring in schools, but rather multiple structural and individual elements that contribute to making schools healthier spaces, and reduce the risk of infection to in-person attendees.
Each of the control measures listed below provides some benefit in reducing spread. However, it is the combination and consistent application of these layered controls as a bundle that are most effective for reducing disease spread in schools.
Updates will be made when the guidance and directives change. We will continue to be flexible and plan for contingencies. As well, we recognize parent/guardian decisions are made for their families and that those decisions may change. Accordingly, we will be as flexible as possible, while keeping in mind that in-person learning is best for students’ engagement and well-being.
- Prioritize health and safety of students and staff
- Maximize student learning time
- Support student and staff well-being
- Ensure equity of access to learning, supports and technology, and extra-curricular activities
- Provide equity of access to extra-curricular activities, with safety protocols
As always, if you have any questions about what is happening in your child’s school, please contact the school principal.
This plan is subject to revision as updated provincial and local guidance changes.
All staff and students must self-screen every day before attending school using the provincial screening tool.
All staff and students who are experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19, as identified in the screening tool, must not attend school and should follow the guidance provided in the screening tool, which may include seeking appropriate medical attention as required, and/or getting tested for COVID-19.
Schools will keep track of daily self-screening confirmation or proof of students, staff and visitors entering the school prior to, or upon, their arrival at school.
If the Ministry of Education directs school boards and schools to perform daily on-site confirmation of self-screening, students, staff and visitors will need to provide daily confirmation or proof that they have self-screened, in a form deemed appropriate and accessible by the school or school board (for example, proof of completed paper copy of screener, mobile application indicating a “pass”) prior to, or upon, their arrival at school. The principal and those designated within the school will be responsible for ensuring all students, staff and visitors have completed and passed their daily COVID-19 self-screen.
Students in Grades 1 to 12 are required to wear properly fitted non-medical or cloth masks indoors in school, including in hallways and during classes, as well as on student transportation.
Masks may be temporarily removed indoors for the following activities, with a minimum distance of 2 metres maintained between cohorts and as much distancing as possible within a cohort to:
- engage in low-contact physical activity (read the health and physical education directive); or
- consume food or drink (read the cafeteria use and lunch protocols directive).
Students are not required to wear masks outdoors, but physical distancing is encouraged between cohorts as much as possible.
Students in Kindergarten are encouraged, but are not required, to wear non-medical or cloth masks in indoor spaces, as well as on student transportation.
Students are expected to bring their own masks to wear on student transportation and at school. Non-medical 3-ply masks will be available at school for students who require them.
Reasonable exceptions to masking are in place at all HPEDSB schools. Schools will review any masking exception requests with a focus on student and staff safety to the greatest extent possible.
Students with sensory or breathing difficulties may be exempted by the school principal, guided by school board guidelines.
Staff personal protective equipment (PPE)
HPEDSB will continue to provide school staff and school bus drivers, school bus monitors and student aides with required PPE (personal protective equipment), including medical masks, eye protection and other PPE based on their specific role/job functions (for example, gloves, gowns).
Required PPE and critical supplies and equipment (for example, disinfectant, hand sanitizer), will continue to be provided.
Medical masks (surgical/procedural) are required to be worn by school staff and visitors indoors at schools, including in hallways and during classes.
Medical masks (surgical/procedural) are also required to be worn by school staff outdoors if 2 metres of distance from others cannot be maintained. Eye protection is required if a staff member comes within 2 metres of an unmasked individual, indoors and outdoors, as per occupational health and safety requirements
Staff must maintain at least 2 metres distance when consuming food/drinks. Reasonable exceptions to the requirement for staff to wear masks will apply.
Eye protection is required for education staff when 2 metres of physical distancing with unmasked students cannot be maintained (such as students mask exemptions or JK/SK students).
Special education needs
Where necessary for faces to be seen for lip reading to support students who are deaf or hard of hearing, masks with clear sections may be worn.
Where staff are required to perform an Aerosol Generating Medical Procedure (AGMP), or are required to be in the same room when an AGMP is being performed, N95 respirators (fit tested) will be provided.
Hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette
Hand hygiene is one of the most important protective measures to prevent COVID-19 spread. Students and staff will continue to practise regular hand hygiene throughout the day.
Dispensers with alcohol based hand rub (ABHR) are located at school entrances, in hallways and classrooms. Signs are posted throughout schools with reminders about proper hand hygiene.
Hand hygiene reminders:
- Soap and water are preferred as the most effective method.
- Alcohol based hand rub (ABHR) can be used by children. It is most effective when hands are not visibly soiled.
- For any dirt, blood, body fluids (urine/feces), it is preferred that hands be washed with soap and water.
- Everyone is encouraged to cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when they cough or sneeze.
Refer to the Public Health Ontario how to wash your hands (PDF) fact sheet.
Refer to the Health Canada hard-surface disinfectants and hand sanitizers (COVID-19): list of hand sanitizers authorized by Health Canada, including which sanitizers may be appropriate for different groups of staff and students.
Distancing and congregating
Physical distancing measures will be layered with other public health measures, such as screening, hand hygiene, cohorting, enhanced cleaning and masking.
It is recommended that congregations of students and staff be reduced, as much as possible.
The same desk/table should be used by the same student each day, as much as possible. Cleaning materials will be available to students to wipe desks.
School arrival, departure and signage
Parent/guardian presence on school yards will be limited at this time. Schools will advise families of a designated area and protocol for drop off and pick up. Physical distancing is required, with masking if 2 metre distances cannot be maintained.
Recess and breaks outdoors
Students do not need to stay within their cohort during recess and breaks outdoors, but distancing should be encouraged between cohorts, as much as possible.
When students are interacting with friends from outside their class/cohort, they should be mindful of maintaining and encouraged to maintain physical distancing.
Shared materials outdoors are permitted, with appropriate hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette.
Recess may be staggered based on the size of the outdoor space and the availability of supervisors. Principals will develop a schedule and routine that allows for students to maintain appropriate physical distancing while still having an opportunity for fresh air and physical activity.
Inclement weather days
Schools will follow the HPEDSB inclement weather procedure and will be required to provide remote learning on inclement weather days. Google Classroom or Brightspace are the approved platforms for remote learning. More information is to come.
Cleaning and disinfecting standards and protocols
HPEDSB has detailed routine and enhanced cleaning and disinfecting protocols, which will continue for the start of school.
HPEDSB will continue to use asthma-safe, hospital-grade green-based cleaning products, where available. Cleaning involves the removal of dirt and disinfectants, destroying germs and preventing them from spreading.
- Cleaning will take place in high touch areas throughout the school.
- Cleaning will take place at the end of each day with high touch surfaces disinfected throughout the day, as permissible.
- Classroom garbage will be collected and disposed of daily as part of normal custodian duties.
- Classroom cleaning will focus on frequently touched surfaces, such as door handles and light switches.
- While the risk of transmission through shared objects is low, the focus will be on regular hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette to reduce the risk of infection related to high touch surfaces, particularly when regular/constant cleaning of shared objects is not feasible.
- Cleaning and disinfecting routines will continue to be based on advice from Hastings Prince Edward Public Health and direction from the Ministry of Education, in consultation with the Ontario Medical Officer of Health.
Cleaning and disinfecting products (e.g., spray bottle, wiper kits) for learning spaces are available upon request.
Shared materials are important for learning (for example, toys for imaginative play in Kindergarten, manipulatives for math, computers and other tech materials, books, art supplies, indoor physical education equipment and shared outdoor equipment). The use of shared materials is permitted. The risk associated with transmission with shared objects is low. The focus should be on regular hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette to reduce the risk of infection related to shared equipment, particularly when regular cleaning of shared objects is not feasible.
When different cohorts interact in shared indoor spaces, masking and as much distancing as possible should be maintained between cohorts.
- Classroom cubbies may be used while maintaining as much physical distancing as possible.
- Locker use is not advised at this time if physical distancing cannot be maintained.
- Physical distancing will be layered with other public health measures, such as screening, hand hygiene, cohorting, enhanced cleaning and masking.
- Some students access alternative learning environments, such as sensory and calming rooms. When these designated spaces are within a Special Education class setting, they are considered part of the program space and can be accessed by any student within the cohort with class-based cleaning protocols implemented (for example student-specific materials brought in or out with individual students).
- Factors and possible strategies to consider for calming rooms with multiple students accessing the same space:
- Schedule times within a cohort of students.
- Each student could have an individual bin of items for sole use.
- Cleaning of surfaces between students’ use of sensory equipment as many of these items go into a child’s mouth.
- Students will need sole access to the preferred items.
- Items should be disinfected. Educational assistants and educators should clean sensory tools as per existing procedure/protocol.
Cafeteria use and lunch protocols
Students may eat together:
- outdoors, without distancing; or
- indoors, with a minimum distance of 2 metres maintained between cohorts and as much distancing as possible within a cohort.
- Where this is not possible, HPEDSB will work with public health to develop a plan that reduces the number of students and cohorts eating in proximity to each other as much as possible.
- Breakfast and nutrition programs will be delivered in a way that enables any student who wishes to participate to do so in cooperation with The Hastings and Prince Edward Learning Foundation.
- Grab and Go format is preferred at this time.
- Food for Learning volunteers are permitted in schools and are expected to follow staff health and safety guidelines.
- Nutrition programs and non-instructional food events, such as a pizza day, may occur.
- Secondary school culinary programs will continue to work collaboratively with public health for guidance on programming options.
Schools may choose to resume purchased lunch programs. Cash is an acceptable form of payment.
Indoor school assemblies or other student/school gatherings may not occur at this time.
Outdoor assemblies may occur with proper physical distancing. This will be reviewed during September 2021.
Visitors to schools and administrative buildings are permitted at this time. They are required to pre-schedule appointments, self-screen and wear a medical mask, for example a surgical/procedural mask, while on the premises. A medical mask will be provided, if needed. Confirmation of self-screening is required prior to entering the building.
All visitors should pre-schedule an appointment with the school administrator or designate and complete a COVID-19 self-assessment prior to entering the school. If you have any signs or symptoms, you may not enter the school.
Parent Nights and other school events involving large gatherings are on hold at this time. This approach may change in the future based on guidance from Hastings Prince Edward Public Health.
School buses will operate as normal. Masks for students in Grades 1 to 12 are required on school buses and vehicles. Students in Kindergarten are encouraged to wear masks on student transportation. Students will be assigned seats and a record of the seating plan will be kept to assist with contact tracing. School buses will continue to have enhanced cleaning and disinfecting of high-touch surfaces.
Ventilation is one of a number of strategies that work together to ensure healthy and safe learning environments.
Ventilation is a key element in the multiple strategies to support healthy and safe learning environments for students and staff. These strategies include hand hygiene, masks, physical distancing, etc. If these protective strategies are followed, the probability of viruses entering our schools will be reduced.
Improving ventilation and air quality is a long term commitment. HPEDSB has spent over $6 million this year alone in ventilation upgrades at schools. Read about the actions that have been taken to enhance air quality in schools in the 2021 Ventilation Report.
Air quality in classrooms and learning environments will continue to be optimized by improving ventilation and/or filtration. Ventilation systems in all schools have been inspected and confirmed to be in good working order prior to the start of the school year, with continued inspection and maintenance scheduled throughout the year.
In addition to regular maintenance and controls in place for schools, improvements made the 2021-2022 school year include the following:
- Filters are changed more frequently and the filter rating has been increased to catch smaller particles (as appropriate for each type of equipment).
- Ventilation controls schedules have been adjusted on all equipment to do a 2-hour purge before and after each school day.
- Ventilation equipment has been updated or added to schools to provide a long-term solution to increased air quality.
- Air systems are balanced to ensure that the units are supplying fresh air and air exchange in the most optimal way to all spaces.
- Improved automation of ventilation units with full control and scheduling abilities in all schools and buildings.
- Portable HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter units are in teaching/learning spaces that do not have full mechanical ventilation and in all Kindergarten classrooms.
- Bi-polar ionization systems have been installed in some spaces without full mechanical ventilation.
School-specific ventilation information will be posted to the HPEDSB website by September 3, 2021. If you have any questions, please contact the school administrator.
Vaccination is an important tool to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and allow students, families, and staff to safely resume normal activities. HPEDSB will follow direction from the Ministry of Education and Hastings Prince Edward Public Health.
The Ministry of Education has directed that all school board employees, bus drivers and essential school visitors must:
- provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19; or
- provide a formal/official documented medical reason for not being vaccinated against COVID-19; or
- participate in an educational program approved by the Ministry of Education.
Anyone who is not immunized, including anyone with medical reasons, will be required to complete regular COVID-19 testing as directed in provincial guidance.
Any student or family wishing to access vaccination may contact Hastings Prince Edward Public Health for information about vaccination clinics. Bookings at vaccination clinics can be accessed at https://hpepublichealth.ca/vaccine-booking/
HPEDSB will continue working with public health to coordinate vaccination clinics in schools and communicate with families about the clinics. Additional information is available at COVID-19 vaccines for youth.
If you are having a difficult time accessing COVID-19 vaccination, please contact your child’s school principal for assistance.
Mental health and student supports
Our primary focus continues to be the mental health, well-being and human rights of everyone in our school communities. Considerations for the well-being of all stakeholders are a lens for planning, implementing, communicating and supporting in-person, blended and virtual/remote learning. We recognize that students and staff will be approaching the transition back to school from a diverse range of perspectives, needs and experiences.
To support a mentally healthy return to school, educators will have opportunities to focus on mental health literacy, where they will learn about mental health and to teach in ways that encourage belonging and support student mental health. Educators will also be given resources that support the implementation of everyday strategies to foster strong positive and inclusive classroom practices, that in turn lead to a mentally healthy classroom.
A helpful framework to consider when planning for a mentally healthy return to school is to think in tiers. Using a tiered approach to achieve a mentally healthy return to school ensures planning occurs for students, families and staff across a continuum of needs.
- Tier 1 Good for ALL: Universal support will be available for all students and staff, as there will be a need to debrief, build relationships, feel a sense of belonging, and re-engage with school life. General school guidelines to support transitions back to school will be developed for all students.
- Tier 2 Good for SOME: Additional support for students more impacted by COVID-19. Some students, families and staff will need to re-establish school relationships and routines. These students and staff may need access to additional mental health support through the Student Services team (Psychological Services, social workers, social service workers, child and youth workers, etc.) and the Employee Assistance Plan (EAP), respectively.
- Tier 3 Good for FEW: Specialized support for students with significant needs and who have been the most vulnerable or affected by COVID-19. Services pathways will be available for those requiring more intensive mental health support during the transition back to school.
For more information about the pathways available for students, consultation can occur with the Mental Health Team.
Specific academic programs and requirements
For students enrolled in cooperative education courses, in-person community placements may be arranged (provided that relevant health and safety requirements can be maintained). If in-person placements are not possible, students may be offered virtual placements.
Music classes (including the use of wind instruments and singing) are permitted in areas with adequate ventilation (read the ventilation directive).
Singing and the use of wind instruments will be permitted as follows:
- Use of wind instruments is permitted indoors within a cohort if a minimum distance of two metres or more can be maintained. As much distance as possible should be encouraged and use of large, well-ventilated spaces should be prioritized.
- Use of wind instruments is permitted outdoors in mixed cohorts with distancing encouraged.
- Singing is permitted indoors with mask wearing. Two metres of physical distancing must be maintained between cohorts and as much distancing as possible maintained within a cohort.
Health and physical education
In elementary and secondary health and physical education courses, the use of gymnasiums, change rooms, weight rooms, indoor physical education equipment and shared outdoor equipment are permitted with physical distancing.
Low-contact activities (refer to the following table) are permitted indoors and outdoors. High contact activities are permitted outdoors only at this time, as follows:
- Masking is not required when playing high or low contact activities outdoors.
- Masking is encouraged for indoor sports where they can be worn safely based on the activity.
- Windows should be opened when feasible to increase ventilation.
- Hand hygiene processes should be followed after equipment has been used.
High and low-contact sports reference tables
|Track and Field/Cross Country|
Day trips and overnight stays are on hold at this time. This will be reviewed during September and will follow the relevant provincial requirements under the Reopening Ontario Act.
EQAO assessments for Grades 3, 6, 9, and 10 will resume.
Literacy and community involvement graduation requirements
The successful completion of the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT), a graduation requirement, is waived for students graduating this school year, but will be restored as a requirement in the 2022-2023 school year.
The community involvement graduation requirement has been reduced from 40 to 20 hours for students graduating in the 2021-2022 school year only.
Adult and continuing education
Adult and Continuing Education programs will continue to be offered.
Currently, school-based clubs, activities, sport teams, bands (with wind instruments outdoors) and other extra-curriculars are permitted. Cohorts may interact outdoors with physical distancing encouraged, and indoors with masking and appropriate physical distancing.
Inter-school sport activities
OPHEA (Ontario Physical Health Education Association) has released the Ontario Physical Activity Safety Standards in Education (OPASSE). This guidance outlines safe practices to enhance athletic activity within schools and is a complementary document to the Ministry of Education inter-school sport activities guidance. HPEDSB schools may take a return to training approach and students may participate in practices. Inter-school athletics continue to be on hold until further notice.
Before and after school programs
Schools, child care operators and authorized recreation providers in schools should follow the guidance for before and after school programs and collaborate to ensure that student lists and information are maintained and readily available to be provided to public health for contact tracing purposes in accordance with all applicable legislation, including the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
We are awaiting guidance, more information is to come.
Community use of schools
A measured approach to reopening schools is important to support schools to maximize health and safety of students and staff. This includes the internal and external use of schools through community use of schools permits.
Community use of schools for internal school permits (meaning the use of school space for school-related events, school related extra-curricular activities, etc.) will be allowed beginning in mid-September 2021 through the normal process of securing a community use permit. Approval will be based on space availability and staffing, aligned with Ministry of Education directives and public health guidance.
Community use of schools for external permits (meaning requests from community groups/individuals for use of space for events, sports, etc.) are not permitted at this time. More information is to come.
International Education will continue to be offered. Schools provide welcoming and inclusive environments for international students to learn and become part of the school community. HPEDSB is in compliance with the guidelines for accepting international students, established by the Ontario Ministry of Education and the Canadian Federal Government.
HPEDSB has been approved by the Ministry of Education to offer International Education for the 2021-2022 school year, based on the HPEDSB International Readiness Plan. The plan incorporates federal and provincial directives, along with additional precautions to provide a safe, healthy and supportive entry for both our international students and homestay families.
Protocols for emergency management and fire safety
Emergency and security drills (shelter in place, hold and secure, lockdown)
The regular practising of emergency measure drills, including shelter in place, hold and secure, lockdown, will not take place during COVID-19. Instead, modified practising will take place to review what has to happen, in the event of a real emergency. Modified practise drills will adhere to physical distance requirements.
School administrators will work collaboratively with local fire services for practice drills. Classes may move throughout the building while maintaining 2 metres between students in the classroom, hallway and at all exits. Principals will review with staff and students where to go in the event of a real emergency when the school needs to be evacuated. Locations on the school playground or field will be identified to allow 1 metre distance between students to be maintained.
Management of COVID-19 in schools
HPEDSB will follow direction from, and work in collaboration with, Hastings Prince Edward Public Health regarding case and outbreak management, as per the Ministry of Health COVID-19 Guidance: School Case, Contact, and Outbreak Management (pdf).
Positive COVID-19 case identified at a school
In the event that schools are made aware of a positive diagnosis of COVID-19 for staff or students, key information pertaining to staff and students will be made available to Hastings Prince Edward Public Health, upon request, contact tracing purposes. This information needs to be accessible by school administrators on short notice, both during and outside school hours, when requested by HPEPH. COVID-19 school board leads have established a system with HPEPH to ensure that these records can be accessed at all times.
The following information will be available for contact tracing purposes:
- attendance records
- student portfolio
- class lists and seating charts
- before and after school child care lists
- transportation lists and seating charts
- up to date contact information for parents, staff and students
- special assignments and programs, such as the Education and Community Partnership Program (ECPP) and Special Education
- records of visitors
Fully immunized individuals who have COVID-19 symptoms
If the individual identified as a high-risk contact is fully immunized (meaning more than 14 days have passed after receiving the second of COVID-19 vaccinations) or has previously tested positive (meaning individual has been a confirmed case of COVID-19 where their initial positive result was less than or equal to 90 days ago and they have been cleared from their initial infection), and have symptoms compatible with COVID-19, they should:
- isolate and get tested right away;
- discontinue self-isolation once symptoms have been improving for at least 24 hours (48 hours for gastrointestinal symptoms), if they test negative; or
- self-isolate for 10 days if they test positive.
Fully immunized individuals without COVID-19 symptoms
If the individual identified as a high-risk contact is fully immunized or previously positive and does not have symptoms compatible with COVID-19, they are generally not required to self-isolate; however, self-isolation may be required at the discretion of public health.
The individual should be recommended for testing but is not required to isolate while awaiting test results if they were not already directed to isolate.
Individuals who are not fully immunized
If the individual identified as a high-risk contact is not fully immunized or previously positive, the individuals should self-isolate and get tested on or after day 7 of their isolation period. Regardless of the test result, they are required to self-isolate for 10 days.
Household members of a high-risk contact with COVID-19 symptoms
If the individual identified as a high-risk contact is fully immunized, or was previously positive and has symptoms compatible with COVID-19:
- a household member who is fully immunized, or previously positive is not required to stay home or isolate;
- a household member who is not fully immunized or previously positive should isolate while the high-risk contact is awaiting test results or if they are not tested; and
- If the risk-contact tests negative, a household member is not required to isolate.
If the individual identified as a high-risk contact and the household member of the high-risk contact is not fully immunized or previously positive and:
- has no symptoms compatible with COVID-19: the household member should stay at home except for essential reasons (for example, work, school) during the high-risk contact’s isolate period
- has symptoms compatible with COVID-19: the household member should isolate while the high-risk contact is awaiting test results or if they are not tested
If the high-risk contact tests negative, the household member should stay at home except for essential reasons (for example, work or school) during the high-risk contact’s isolation period.