Health and Safety Updates for Elementary Families

Extracurriculars

TVDSB is making every effort to ensure that we are able to keep our schools open for learning. A return to extracurricular activities that include Inter-school Athletic activities will focus on skill development and enabling connections beyond the classroom in order to promote positive student mental well-being.  These activities are an extension of the school day and discretionary in nature.  Inter-School activities are those that would mean students would participate in athletic activities with students from another school in Thames Valley. 

We will be introducing a cautious return to elementary athletics focusing on in school opportunities for students K-6 and a gradual return to Inter-School competition for students in grade 7 and 8.  Students (those eligible in Grades 7 and 8) and Volunteer Coaches must be fully vaccinated in order to participate in Inter-School Athletics, in alignment with guidance from the Middlesex London and Southwestern Health Units.  However, we acknowledge that partially vaccinated students should also have opportunities to participate while completing their vaccination requirements.  

To support this process (below), eligible elementary students (Grades 7 and 8) have until Nov. 30, 2021 to be fully vaccinated in order to participate in Inter-School Athletics. Fully vaccinated students can fully participate with visual verification of their vaccination to the designated school staff member.   

The process for students who wish to participate in Inter-School Athletics and who are not yet fully vaccinated is as follows: 

  • Student must have one dose of a vaccine and wait 14 days prior to participation.     

  • Students must complete and pass the daily COVID-19 School Screening Tool https://covid-19.ontario.ca/school-screening/

  • Students must take a rapid test for COVID-19 twice a week with three days in between each test to be eligible to continue participating.   

  • The rapid test schedule should be Sunday and Wednesday so that visual verification may occur on Monday and Thursday prior to participation.   

  • Visual verification (i.e., photo, confirmed results from pharmacy, etc.) must be confirmed by school staff.  

  • Families are responsible for obtaining rapid tests. Rapid tests may be purchased at a pharmacy.  

  • Once the second dose is received, the student must show visual confirmation to the school. Waiting 14 days after the second vaccine is not a requirement. 

  • The updated protocol outlined above will remain in effect until November 30, 2021.  

Those elementary students wanting to participate in Inter-School Athletics during the 2021-2022 school year must be fully vaccinated, if eligible. The process outlined above will only be available until November 30, 2021. 

Students who are ineligible to be vaccinated (K-6) will be able to participate in-school (or school-based) activities, which may include clubs, intramural sports, etc. Where these opportunities may be available to students, the school staff will communicate directly with parents and guardians to seek permission for involvement. These extension activities are only to occur at the school and there will not include inter-school events. 

Please note that In-School (school-based) clubs and intramurals may occur at elementary schools for students in Grades K-8 under the following guidelines: 

  • Contact tracing procedures in place. 

  • Parental/ guardian approval of student participation based on informed consent of mixed cohorts from various grades. 

  • Masking and physical distancing must be in place indoors.   

  • No vaccination status is required. 

Music Programming

On the guidance of our local public health units, Thames Valley has recently revised our protocols for music instruction for elementary students. These are as follows:

SINGING / VOCAL MUSIC 

  • Singing is permitted indoors. Masking is encouraged but not required if a minimum distance of two metres can be maintained between cohorts and as much distancing as possible maintained within a cohort.
  • Singing is permitted outdoors with physical distancing maintained between cohorts. Masking is required if physical distancing is not maintained among individuals within a cohort.

INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC

Woodwinds (including Recorders) / Brass:

  • The use of wind instruments is permitted indoors within a cohort without masking requirements, if a minimum distance of two metres can be maintained. Instruments must be properly sanitized between student use.
  • The use of wind instruments is permitted indoors only in well-ventilated spaces and if physical distancing of at least 2 metres is maintained.
  • The use of wind instruments is permitted outdoors with physical distancing maintained between cohorts.

Strings / Percussion:

  • Strings and percussion instruments may be used provided a thorough sanitizing is implemented between students or there are sufficient instruments in a school for individual use (no sharing).
  • Percussion instruments are to be sanitized between students.

EXTRACURRICULAR MUSIC (Comprised of students from different cohorts)

Singing/Choir:
Effective October 29, 2021, extracurricular singing/choir may continue outdoors or start indoors for fully or partially vaccinated students. Masking is encouraged but not required if a minimum distance of two metres between elementary cohorts can be maintained.

Instrumental:
Extracurricular music with wind instruments may take place outdoors with physical distancing maintained between cohorts or indoors in well-ventilated spaces and if physical distancing of at least 2 metres is maintained.

Vaccination Requirements for Extracurricular Music:

  • Staff must adhere to employee requirements pertaining to vaccinations. Students who are eligible to be vaccinated (those who are twelve years of age and older without a medical exemption) may participate provided they are fully or partially vaccinated.
  • It is imperative that advisors verify student contact information and proof of vaccination (visual verification of second dose vaccination receipt) prior to the start of any in-person activities. This verification shall not include the physical collection of vaccination receipts.
  • Students who have already received their first vaccination may participate in extracurricular music as long as they complete rapid tests twice per week.
  • Parent/guardian permission is required for students to participate in mixed cohort activities.
  • Staff advisors must forward daily attendance records for each activity to school administration for contact tracing purposes.

Extracurricular singing/choir is not permitted for primary/junior students at this time.

Virtual Learning

While Thames Valley continues to focus on In-Person Learning as the preferred model for students, Virtual Learning continues to be an option for this school year. 

Elementary students engaged in Virtual Learning for 2021-2022 will be provided with 300 minutes of instruction and learning. Please note the following:

  • Physical Education and Dance will not be offered.
  • Students will use Brightspace as a digital learning platform with Google Meet as the synchronous (live) meeting format.
  • Kindergarten students will receive a minimum of 180 minutes of synchronous (live) instruction each day, while Grade 1-8 students will receive 225 minutes of synchronous (live) instruction each day. Attendance will be monitored throughout the day.
Mental Health and Well-Being Supports

We continue to prioritize mental health and well-being as a key condition for learning and flourishing.

A number of resources for students and their families can be found on our TVDSB Mental Health & Well-Being website.

Vaccination

Vaccination is an important tool to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and allow students, families, and staff to safely resume normal activities. TVDSB will follow direction from the Ministry of Education and our local health units. TVDSB will continue to work collaboratively with our local health units to support the opportunity for vaccinations for students and families in our district. 

Recently, the Ministry of Education announced the requirement for all school boards to implement a COVID-19 immunization disclosure policy as an additional tool to advance safety and support local public health units in working with school boards to follow COVID-19 Guidance: School Case, Contact, and Outbreak Management. 

The policy will require that school boards ensure all school board employees undertake one of the following:   

  • 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. 

This approach will also apply to student placements, frequent school visitors (e.g., school nutrition program staff), and other professionals who deliver services in schools. It will also apply to student transportation drivers. 

School board employees, student transportation drivers, frequent visitors and other professionals, who are not immunized, including those with medical reasons, will be required to complete regular COVID-19 testing as directed by the province. TVDSB is working on an implementation plan of this process.  

More details on staff vaccinations

Ventilation

Thames Valley is making ongoing efforts to optimize air quality in classrooms and learning environments through improving ventilation and/or filtration.  

Parents, guardians and the community can be assured that all TVDSB schools will be operating within full compliance with the Ontario Building Code and with all Ministry of Education and Public Health guidelines.  

Most TVDSB schools have full mechanical ventilation, which is routinely inspected and in good working order prior to the start of the school year. In addition, the systems use upgraded filters which are frequently changed. Ventilation systems are operated for extended hours throughout the day to increase air exchange and increase fresh air intake.

Thames Valley has invested more than $64.5 million to install or upgrade mechanical ventilation systems over the last five years – with an additional $15 million in system improvements during the summer of 2021.

By 2022, mechanical ventilation is expected to be installed at approximately 93 per cent of TVDSB schools. 

For schools with limited mechanical ventilation, portable HEPA filtration units have been purchased for the re-opening of schools in September. 

By September 2021, HEPA units will be in 

  • Kindergarten classrooms in all TVDSB elementary schools   

  • All classrooms with students with complex medical and physical needs   

  • All common areas (classrooms, libraries, gymnasiums, guidance offices, staff rooms, etc.) in schools without mechanical ventilation  

Masks

All students (Kindergarten to Grade 12+) in Thames Valley will be required to wear masks indoors in school, including in hallways and during classes, as well as on school vehicles. This aligns with the provincial direction and the Thames Valley DSB motion of the Board of Trustees in August 2020.

Masks may be temporarily removed indoors to eat and drink, and while outdoors for recess.  

Parent and Guardian Responsibilities
Masking
Parents/guardians/caregivers must wear a mask when indoors at any TVDSB school, and outdoors when physical distancing can't be maintained.
School Arrival, Departure and Signage

Drop-off and pick-up areas at schools will be equipped with reminder signs to parents/ guardians regarding the need for physical distancing. Schools may provide more information with respect to specific locations or “staging areas” for student drop-off/pick-up.  

 

We recognize how important it is to provide safe drop-offs for students and appreciate parents’/ guardians’ adherence to these new routines and processes. 

Daily Screening of Students

Students must not come to school if they have symptoms/feel sick or are unwell. Daily screening of all students is required prior to students riding school transportation or attending school. Parents/ guardians will be provided with a checklist to complete this daily screening for each of their children (K-12) and are required to ensure their child(ren) pass the current COVID-19 screening tool. The screening tool can also be found on the Ministry’s website at https://covid-19.ontario.ca/school-screening/

Students who are 18 or older are required to complete this screening tool themselves. 

Picking up Students Who Are Exhibiting Symptoms

As part of our process to ensure the health and safety of students and staff, it is important to monitor signs and symptoms of students and staff during the school day. As such, if a student exhibits COVID-19 symptoms while at school, they will be relocated to a supervised designated location in the school. Staff will immediately contact the parent or guardian to pick up their child at school. We request that parents and guardians establish a process for the retrieval of their child if they are notified during the school day. Students will not be able to take school transportation if they have been isolated with symptoms. 

Below are some points on how to proceed when a student presents with symptoms of COVID-19 at school and guidance for family members:

  • The student with symptoms must be sent home and advised to be tested/ consult with their health care provider. Symptomatic students should isolate while test results are pending or not available, unless there is a known alternative diagnosis provided by a health care provider.
  • Siblings of the symptomatic student who are not fully vaccinated must also be sent home but are not required to be tested before they can return to school.
  • Unvaccinated siblings can return to school after the student with symptoms obtains a negative COVID-19 test result or is diagnosed with another illness.
  • See guidance provided in the Provincial School Screening Tool.

Before students can return to school, they will need to follow direction from their local public health unit, as well as complete the COVID-19 screening tool.

Health and Safety Practices for School Sites
Cleaning and Disinfecting

TVDSB is committed to ensuring the health and safety of students and staff. We continue to strive to have all high touch points thoroughly cleaned on a regular basis. All TVDSB staff will participate in mandatory COVID-19 training which includes revised cleaning protocols which are aligned to Ministry guidelines. 

Distancing and Congregating

Physical distancing is one of the many layers of public health measures that include screening, hand hygiene, cohorting, enhanced cleaning and masking to ensure student and staff safety.  

 

As much physical distancing as possible will be practiced between students and between students and staff.  

 

Desks will be placed to allow as much distancing as possible.  

 

Periods of student movement will be staggered and visual reminders for distancing and traffic flow will be used throughout the school. 

 

Cafeterias, libraries and auditoriums will be clearly marked to indicate room capacities and to ensure physical distancing.

Staff Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Visitor Masking Requirements

TVDSB has prepared for all staff to have Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) which includes masks, face shields, gowns and gloves, as required.

Medical masks are required to be worn by school staff and approved visitors indoors at school, including in hallways and during classes.

Staff are required to wear medical masks outdoors if physical distancing can't be maintained.  

Parents and guardians can support younger students by helping them to understand that staff will be wearing PPE as part of the re-opening of schools. 

Masking

Everyone must wear a face mask inside TVDSB schools and other TVDSB sites to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

In Thames Valley, Kindergarten students are required to wear a mask following a Board of Trustee motion passed in August 2020. As such, all students (Kindergarten-Grade 8) will be required to wear a mask indoors in school, including in hallways and during classes. 

Masks may be temporarily removed indoors for the following activities: 

  • Consuming food or beverages 

  • Singing 

  • The use of wind instruments  

During these activities a minimum distance of two metres must be maintained between cohorts. Within cohorts as much distancing as possible must be ensured. 

Masks are encouraged for indoor sports where they can be worn safely based on the activity (i.e., for all activities except where the heart rate is elevated for lengthy periods of time, such as during a basketball scrimmage). Masks must be worn during indoor sports while waiting to participate (e.g., on a bench, on the sidelines, etc.) 

Students are not required to wear masks outdoors, but distancing will be encouraged. 

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. 

Mask Accommodations/Exemptions
Schools will review masking accommodations and exemption requests with a focus on student and staff safety. There is a process for parents and guardians to request, in writing, for their child(ren) to be approved for a mask accommodation or exemption. Please contact your child(ren)’s school for more information about this process. 
Hand Hygiene

Hand hygiene and mask wearing continue to be among the most important protective strategies against the transmission of COVID-19.

Schools will provide hand sanitizer in all classrooms and at school entrances. All staff, students and essential, approved visitors will be expected to practice proper hand hygiene, washing hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer, at the following times: 

  • Upon entering the school 

  • At regular time intervals throughout day 

  • Before/after eating food 

  • After using the restroom 

  • Before/after outdoor play 

  • After sneezing or coughing 

  • Before/after use of shared materials 

  • Before putting on and after removing PPE and/or non-medical masks/face coverings 

Shared Materials

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. Staff and students will practice regular hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette (masking) to reduce the risk of infection related to shared equipment. 

Shared Spaces

Shared homerooms, libraries (for group and individual use, for example, drop-in study time, etc.) and computer/technology labs, are permitted. Use of lockers/cubbies is permitted. When different cohorts interact in shared indoor spaces, masking and as much distancing as possible will be maintained between cohorts. 

Management of COVID-19 in Schools

The Ministry of Education and Public Health have provided direction in the Guidance to Schools Case, Outbreak and Management document. The processes are outlined in this directive. TVDSB is committed to communicating with families and staff in alignment with Ministry and local health unit practices.

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 our public health units, upon request, for contact tracing purposes.

For more information on the management of probable or confirmed COVID-19 cases in schools please visit the Ministry of Education website. 

Privacy

Staff will follow the directions from the local health units in terms of what medical/health information can be shared related to students or their families and that of TVDSB staff. TVDSB is appreciative that parents and guardians understand that not all personal information can be shared due to privacy concerns.

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