Back to School Frequently Asked Questions
The safety and well-being of our students and staff is always our top priority.
These questions and answers have been prepared to give families a better idea of our return to school plans so that they can make an informed decision regarding in-person or online education for their children and teens once school resumes September 8. Our plans are based on the advice, guidance and directives of the Ministry of Education, as well as provincial and local public health officials. There are some questions we do not have answers to currently, and we will do our best to update the information below as we receive confirmation and clarification.
In-person Learning for Elementary Students
Q. What will elementary school look like in September?
A. When elementary classes resume September 8, Junior Kindergarten-Grade 8 students will be in school full-time. The school day will still include 300 minutes of learning each day, and there will still be breaks for recess and lunch. Regular classroom numbers will remain the same, although desks will be reorganized to allow as much physical distancing as possible.
Other aspects of the planned day include:
- Classes will stay together in one cohort (group) with one teacher, as much as possible.
- Desks will be spread out and spaced away from other desks as much as possible.
- All teachers and education support workers will be provided appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment).
- Tape and directional signs will be used to help students remain appropriately distanced in the classroom, hallways and entrances.
- Recesses, lunches and bathroom break times will be held at staggered times, to maintain physical distancing and reduce the number of students outside and in the hallways and washrooms at one time.
- We will follow proper hand hygiene. Staff members and signs throughout the school will remind students to wash their hands thoroughly and often with soap and water, and additional hand sanitizer stations will be installed in classrooms and throughout the school.
- Students in Grades 4 and up will be required to wear non-medical face masks while indoors at school.
- Students in Kindergarten to Grade 3 will be encouraged, but not required, to wear masks in indoor spaces.
- The number of contacts for each elementary student will be limited to about 50 people.
- We will follow a strict health protocol for students or staff who become ill.
- Day-to-day cleaning and sanitization will be increased.
Q. Do I have to register my child to attend school on September 8?
A. No. Only parents who are choosing to have their children participate in the Learning At Home program must ‘opt-out’ of the conventional school program. More information on the Learning At Home program is found below.
Q. What about students with special needs?
A. Individual students will be able to leave their classrooms to receive additional supports, such as time with a special education resource teacher or other professional; however, contacts in schools for students will be limited to about 50 people. Teachers will continue to accommodate students with individual education plans (IEPs) and those needing additional support, whether they are in the classroom or distance learning at home.
Students registered in the Learning and Life Skills (LLS) classes and all students with special needs will participate in full-time school. It is recognized that some students will require more support in adapting to the new school protocols, therefore extra time for transitions will be provided prior to the start of school, and during the school day, to become familiar with new routines. For some students physical distancing might not be possible; in these cases, staff will be provided with appropriate PPE. Central professional staff who come to schools to support students will be adjusting their schedules to spend time in blocks at schools, to reduce the number of exposures and transitions to and from different schools.
Q. What about nutrition breaks?
A. Students will remain in their classrooms to eat lunch. They will remove their masks to eat and drink, and remain with their cohort for that time.
Q. What about physical education and outdoor learning?
A. We will encourage all teachers to include outdoor learning in their program. In particular, we plan to run physical education classes outdoors as much as possible, particularly in early fall, as this supports physical distancing. Students will be expected to dress for the weather. During the winter months, time outdoors will be reduced according to the weather
Q. What about school sports?
A. Due to health and safety restrictions, organized sports teams and sporting events will not be permitted at this time. Large gatherings and assemblies will not occur until provincial direction is given. Since outdoor learning allows for greater physical distancing, students will be able to remove their masks when classes are outside.
Q. What date will Junior Kindergarten students be starting school?
A. Kindergarten Year 1 students will start school in a staggered entry, as in previous years. This will allow students to get to know their teacher, their early childhood educator, and their classmates in small groups. Schools will inform parents directly of the starting date and time for their child.
In-person Learning for Secondary Students
Q. What will the day look like for secondary students?
A. Secondary students also will attend school full-time starting September 8, but timetables will be adjusted to reduce the number of classes and to limit student and staff contacts to a maximum of 100 people. Schools will operate in “quadmesters”, so that students take only two subjects at a time, in each of four quadmesters throughout the year.
Q. How will quadmesters work?
- Students will take their Period 1 and 2 classes each day, for the first nine weeks of school.
- Period 1 classes will take place each morning, for 150 minutes.
- Period 2 classes will take place each afternoon, for 150 minutes.
- There will be scheduled breaks in the morning and afternoon, which must be taken together as a class.
- Lunch will take place between Period 1 and Period 2, with students remaining in their classroom the entire time.
- Period 3 and 4 classes will take place during the second quadmester, over the next nine weeks.
The following example may be helpful:
September – November
November to the end of January 2021
Student will participate in Period 1 and Period 2 classes
Students will participate in Period 3 and Period 4 classes
Final Assessments will occur at the end of each course in mid November.
Final Assessments will occur at the end of each course in mid January.
Safety protocols for secondary schools will include mandatory masks indoors, students remaining in one cohort as much as possible, staggering of lunch and break times, proper hand hygiene, physical distancing measures, strict protocol for anyone who becomes ill, directional signs in hallways and entrances, and increased daily cleaning and sanitization
Q. When will students receive their timetables?
A. Student timetables will be confirmed by each high school the week of August 23, through Edsby. If there are any concerns, students may reach out to Guidance staff on or after August 27, 2020. Class sizes will be consistent with previous years.
Q. Will common areas such as the cafeteria and library be available?
A. The cafeteria and library will not be available as common spaces, although there may be times when they are used for dedicated classroom space. While students will not be able to sign out resources from the library, they will have access to a rich variety of online resources, at http://kprschools.ca/en/LearningResources0.html
Q. What about student lockers?
A. To lessen congestion in hallways, students will not be given access to lockers. They will keep their belongings with them throughout the day, taking home everything they brought with them.
Q. What about accessing Student Success, Resource, Guidance and First Nations rooms?
A. Individual students will be able to access these services during Period 1 or 2 by appointment. Signing in and out will be required, and rooms will have a stated maximum capacity to ensure physical distancing.
Q. Can secondary students leave school for lunch?
A. No. To support physical distancing measures the school day is very structured and will look like this:
- At the end of Period 1, students will eat lunch in the classroom. Students will not be permitted to leave the classroom to go out for lunch. Students should bring all food for the day with them.
- At the end of lunch, students will proceed to their Period 2 class.
- Students will remain in their Period 2 class for the afternoon (approximately 150 minutes).
- During both Periods 1 and 2, classes will have a scheduled break, which must be taken together as a class (this will allow for a break from mask wearing).
- At the end of Period 2 students will proceed to their designated exit for travel home.
Q. Will all courses be available both online and in person?
A. Some optional courses – such as hands-on construction courses - may not be available online. Schools will look at each of their courses to decide if and how they may be taught safely. Co-op placements will be offered virtually, where feasible. In-person community coop placements may be offered in cooperation with some employers, as long as they comply with all requirements of the local health units.
Learn At-Home Program - Elementary and Secondary Students
Q. What will the Learn At-Home program be like?
A. Students participating in online distance education will:
- have to log in to the online classes five days a week, as attendance will be taken daily
- participate in both asynchronous and synchronous learning; synchronous learning refers to real-time teaching when the students and teacher will be connected live, while asynchronous education will involve online posting of resources that can be accessed and completed by the student at any time
- take the same courses they would be taking in person. Course options for secondary students who choose to learn from home will be confirmed based on student need and the total number of students who opt to learn from home
- follow the same curriculum as their peers attending school in person
- have opportunities for frequent, live contact with their teachers while also learning independently
- be able to contact their teachers for help and to have questions answered.
Q. How do I register my child for the Learn At-Home Program?
A. Parents wishing to enroll their child in the Learn At Home program can do so through the following link: http://optout.kprdsb.ca/
Q. Is there a deadline to register?
A. Yes. The deadline to enroll in the Learn At Home Program is Wednesday, August 19, 2020.
Q Will students be able to change from online to in-person learning?
A. Yes, students will be able to move from online learning to attending class in person.
If families change their decision regarding whether they want their children to attend in person after the start of school, their requests for a change will be addressed as soon as possible. We will ask that families be patient as some time will be required to develop transition plans from one form of learning to another as we will need to adhere to Ministry of Education and Public Health guidelines that support student and staff health, safety and well-being. Secondary students returning to in-person learning may be limited to the new term or new semester based on course availability, enrolment, and time missed in the course.
Q. What about students who don’t have a computer at home?
A. Schools will assess whether students need access to a device or internet and take steps to distribute school resources to ensure students can stay connected, wherever possible, to learning.
Q. What learning software will students use?
A. Students who decide to learn from home will use learning management software such as D2L Brightspace, Google Classroom or Edsby. Students learning at home will not enter their school buildings.
Q. Who will teach students online?
A. Teachers assigned specifically to at-home learning will teach elementary students and provide their own lesson materials.
For secondary students who choose to learn from home, they may participate in the same courses they would be taking at school or other compulsory courses but through the online classroom. Students may be taught by a teacher they would have at school or be taught by a teacher specifically assigned to support online learning.
Q. If I choose at-home distance learning, but still have to leave my home for work, can the hours be flexible?
A. Since at-home learning will include asynchronous learning, families will have some flexibility to schedule their day. The student will still have to participate in live, synchronous learning, however, when it is offered during the school day.
Q. What happens if my child has questions or is falling behind?
A. Students will be able to ask questions and interact with the teacher during the synchronous learning times of the day. Teachers will support learners and provide additional support where needed.
Health and Safety Procedures for all Schools
Q. Will students and staff be screened for illness before school?
A. All students, parents and staff members will be asked to self-screen at home each day before coming to school, using a checklist provided by the local Health Units. Any person who is displaying any of the symptoms listed in the self-assessment, such as a fever, will need to remain at home. This will apply in all cases, even if the symptoms are minimal or seem like just a minor cold.
Q. What will the self-assessment include?
A. According to the self-assessment, you should not come to school or attend work if:
- You or someone you are in close contact with have travelled outside of Canada in the past 14 days
- You have been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19
- You have any of the following symptoms:
- New or worsening cough
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty breathing
- Sore throat
- Unexplained fatigue/malaise/muscle aches
- Runny nose/nasal congestion without known cause
- Pink eye (conjunctivitis)
- Difficulty walking
- Abdominal pain
- Decrease or loss of sense of smell or taste.
Q. What if I need to drop something off for my child during the school day or talk to my child’s teacher?
A. For the safety of everyone in the school, the Health Units are advising us to limit the number of visitors. Visits to the school and on-site child care centres will be by appointment only. Wherever possible, telephone meetings will be held with parents and guardians. If you need to get in touch with someone at the school, you will be able to call or email the school directly. Unscheduled visitors and family members – including parents – will not be able to informally step into the school, including at arrival and departure times, to speak with staff. Aside from scheduled appointments, parents and guardians will only be able to enter the school in case of emergency. Volunteers also will be asked not to come in to schools until health officials indicate it is safe for more visitors to enter.
Q. What about drinking fountains, refill stations and personal water bottles?
A. All drinking fountains will be closed. Students will be encouraged to bring a labelled water bottle to school, and refill stations will be open for students and staff to fill their own water bottles. Refill stations will be treated as high touch surfaces that will be cleaned often throughout the day.
Q. What will drop-off and pick-up times at schools look like?
A. Schools will work to determine the best way to manage pick-up and drop-off times for students that respect physical distancing measures. These procedures will include students who are bused to school and those who walk. For example, buses may be the only vehicles allowed into the parking lot, while areas may be designated away from the school for parents to park legally and walk their children from there at the designated time. Families will be encouraged to use active transportation, such as walking or biking to school if they live within the walking zone, rather than being driven. Please see the section on Busing further down for details on bus safety protocols.
If Someone Becomes Ill
Q. What if a student or staff member becomes ill?
A. The KPR board has specific illness protocols in place, based on the direction and recommendations of our local Health Units. Our protocol includes the following steps:
- Frequent reminders that students and staff must not attend school if they are sick, even if symptoms resemble a mild cold.
- Staff who become ill will be sent home immediately and directed to contact the Health Unit regarding testing.
- Students who become ill while attending school will be isolated in a separate room with staff supervision, at least two metres away from other students. Families will be contacted to pick up their child or teen immediately, as well as any siblings.
- Kits with sanitizer, masks and other personal protective equipment will be provided for anyone who becomes ill at school, for use by the ill individual and the staff member attending to them.
- Spaces and items used by individuals who are ill will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected after use; items that cannot be easily cleaned will be removed.
- If COVID-19 is ruled out by the Health Unit, the individual may return to school after 48 hours of being symptom-free.
Q. What if the Health Unit confirms a case of COVID-19?
A. If the Health Unit indicates there is a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, the school will take all steps advised by Public Health. These will include:
- The Health Unit will take over responsibility for management of the illness and contact tracing. The school will keep daily records of everyone who was in the school building, and share that information with the Health Unit.
- The individual who tested positive will not be allowed to return to school until they are cleared by the Health Unit.
- Public health officials will determine any additional steps that may be required, including possible declaration of an outbreak and any impacts on specific classes or schools.
- The Health Unit will provide information and advice to the school and school board, for sharing with all families at the school.
- For students who will be away from school for an extended period, learning materials will be provided.
Q. What happens if there is an outbreak and classrooms or schools are closed again?
A. All affected students will be provided with materials and instruction for learning from home.
Q. If my family travels prior to the return to school, do we have to self-isolate for 14 days?
A. Travel outside of Canada is currently the only travel that requires individuals to self-isolate for 14 days upon return to Ontario. The Health Unit will advise us, and we will advise families, should this change.
Q. If someone in my family has been exposed to COVID-19, should I let the school know?
A. Yes, if any family member has been exposed to COVID-19, please contact your local Health Unit and let the school know.
Use of Masks
Q. Who needs to wear a mask at school?
A. All students in Grades 4-12 will be required to wear a mask, while Kindergarten to Grade 3 students will be encouraged to wear a mask. All staff will be required to wear masks as well. Medical masks and eye protection (face shields) will be provided for all teachers and other educational staff in the school.
Q. What if I feel my child needs to be exempted from wearing a mask?
A. Provincial COVID-19 requirements allow reasonable exceptions to the requirement to wear masks. For example, students with chronic respiratory illnesses (such as asthma), those with special needs and those who have sensory challenges may be exempted from wearing masks, and an appropriate Plan of Care will be put in place. If you have any concerns, please speak with your school principal.
Q. Will the school provide masks?
A. Families are encouraged to provide masks for their children and teens. Cloth masks are recommended, since they are reusable, can be washed daily, and are more environmentally friendly. Schools will also have a supply of reusable, cloth masks available for students who need them.
Q. Are face shields acceptable or does it have to be a mask?
A. Students may choose to wear a face shield brought from home; however, Grades 4-12 students must wear a mask even when wearing a face shield.
Q. When will masks be required during the day?
A. Grades 4-12 students will have to wear masks most of the time they are indoors, including in hallways, entrances, during classes, and while they are riding the school bus. Kindergarten to Grade 3 students will also be encouraged to wear masks at these times. When students are outside with their cohort – such as for recess or during outdoor physical education – and can remain physically distanced from one another, they will be able to take a break from wearing their masks. Both elementary and secondary students will be able to remove their masks when having their lunch or snacks in the classroom.
Q. How will students in Kindergarten to Grade 3 be encouraged to wear a mask?
A. A safe, caring and respectful learning environment is essential for everyone in our school communities. School staff will work closely with parents and guardians of Kindergarten to Grade 3 students to encourage wearing a mask.
Q. What if students refuse to wear a mask, remove it constantly or are singled out because they can’t wear a mask?
A. As with all protocols, students will be expected to follow the school code of conduct and safety rules. Staff will work with families to find ways to ensure their children understand that masks need to be worn. Where students are exempted from wearing a mask for health or other reasons, and an appropriate Plan of Care is in place, teachers will help other students in the class to understand, respect and be sensitive to their peers’ needs.
Q. What cleaning protocols will schools follow?
A. All KPR schools will follow pandemic cleaning protocols to support safe, healthy facilities and focus on increased cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting. The pandemic cleaning protocol, based on the advice of public health experts, includes:
- cleaning and disinfecting of all high touch surfaces in schools, three times per day; high touch surfaces include faucets, toilet fixtures and door locks in washrooms; eating areas, such as tables, sinks and countertops; doorknobs, push buttons, light switches, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, touch screens, handrails, photocopiers, and other frequently used equipment
- custodians using electrostatic disinfectant sprayers that can cover large areas, when students are not present
- increasing the number of custodians to ensure high priority cleaning takes place
- bringing in an afternoon shift of custodians to thoroughly clean and sanitize the school once students have left for the day, and ensure it is a safe environment the following day
- maintaining close, ongoing communication with public health officials.
Q. What cleaning products will be used?
A. KPR will be using cleaners and sanitizers that are recommended by public health officials as effective against COVID-19. All custodial staff will be trained in proper application and use of the cleaners and sanitizers.
Q. Will frequent handwashing be part of the students’ day?
A. Yes, handwashing reminders and opportunities will be part of the regular routine every day. Students will be reminded how to wash their hands effectively using soap and water, and how to use hand sanitizer. Handwashing hygiene will include:
- signs throughout the school and reminders by staff regarding proper hand hygiene
- touchless sanitizers in shared areas throughout the school and sanitizer available in every classroom
- reminders to use proper hand hygiene when arriving at school, before and after eating or drinking, after using the washroom, after playing outside, when their hands are physically dirty, when they cough or sneeze, and before and after removing or putting on masks.
Q. What safety protocols will be followed by community services located at schools, such as child care and before- and after-school programs?
A. KPR is in close contact with the organizations that offer child care services and before- and after-school programs at our school sites. On-site child care programs and before- and after-school programs will follow enhanced cleaning and safety protocols, as directed by the Ministry of Education and Public Health.
Q. What about Community Use of School permits?
All Community Use of Schools is being discontinued at this time.
Q. How will KPR address mental health of students when all staff will be wearing masks and students can’t see the teacher’s face?
A. The social development and well-being of students is of utmost importance to us. Staff will work with students to understand the purpose and need to wear masks and other personal protective equipment. This will also assist with students understanding the use of masks in public areas of our community. We know that adjustments will need to be made to teaching and instruction.
Q. What mental health supports will be available?
A. KPR’s Mental Health Clinicians will participate in school planning and transition meetings to support planning for students with mental health needs, whether they are learning in-person or online. Depending on the circumstances, Mental Health Clinicians will be able to provide individual mental health counselling face-to-face with physical distancing, or virtually. Resources and strategies from School Mental Health Ontario to support student transitions back to school are being provided to all KPR teachers. KPR elementary teachers have Kids Have Stress Too materials for their use in supporting social emotional learning, along with other programs. Our Mental Health Clinicians also will continue to refer students to supportive resources in the community.
Q. What about online mental health resources?
A. KPR has a wealth of mental resources available for students, parents and guardians, and staff at http://www.kprschools.ca/en/MentalHealthResources.html This page will be updated as new resources and supports become available.
Q. Our family qualifies for busing. Will my child or teen have to take the bus to and from school?
A. Familes can choose whether or not to ride the bus. For students who qualify for bus transportation, parents will be able to have their children opt out of taking the bus. More information on this is available on the Student Transportation Services of Central Ontario (STSCO), website – www.stsco.ca
Q. How do you plan on cleaning and sterilizing the buses every day?
A. STSCO, which oversees busing of KPR students, will be adhering to federal and provincial requirements closely. STSCO is ensuring all bus operators are fully aware of, and follow, the enhanced cleaning protocols for buses, as directed by the federal government at https://www2.tc.gc.ca/en/services/road/federal-guidance-school-bus-operations-during-covid-19-pandemic.html. Buses will be cleaned twice per day with a focus on all high touch surfaces, such as handrails and seats. Bus drivers and monitors will be provided with PPE, wear masks and wash and/or sanitize their hands before boarding the bus.
Q. What other steps will be taken for the protection of students on the buses?
A. The following steps will help to protect students while riding buses:
- The same mask requirements that apply to schools will apply on the buses. Students in Grades 4 and up will be required to wear non-medical face masks while on the bus, while students in Kindergarten to Grade 3 will be encouraged to wear masks. A supply of masks should be available on each bus in the event a student does not have one or a parent is required to board to support a student with special needs.
- Seating will be assigned to keep students from the same household together, and students from the same classroom together, where possible.
- All students will load the bus from back to front when being picked up and unload from front to back when being dropped off. This will limit close contact between students on the bus. Students are encouraged to walk to their seat without touching seats as they pass as much as possible. Students must follow the instructions given to them from the bus driver and sit in the seat assigned to them. Students may not change seats at any time during the bus trip.
- Students who have symptoms associated with COVID-19 or think they have been exposed to COVID-19 will not be allowed to take transportation. Parents must screen their child for any symptoms prior to sending them to board the bus. If a child is displaying symptoms such as coughing, fever or other obvious signs of an illness, they will not be allowed to board the bus. The bus driver will inform the parent/guardian, if they are with the child, that the child cannot ride. If there is no parent/guardian, with the child, the driver will contact dispatch to advise the family that the child cannot be transported. If a child gets sick at school or exhibits symptoms they will not be transported on the bus after school.
- It is recommended that all students and parents maintain a two-meter physical distance while waiting at the bus stop. Students should be reminded to wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds before they leave for the bus stop or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer just before boarding the bus.
- Students cannot bring large items on the bus that would not ordinarily fit in a knapsack. Students may not eat or drink on the bus.
- Drivers will take a daily log of which students rode the bus for any trip. This is required for contact tracing by the health unit.
- Before school starts, families of bused students will receive information on their bus schedule, bus stops, and entry and exit procedures.
Q. How many students will be on my child’s or teen’s bus?
A. We will not know how many students will be on the buses until we receive confirmation from parents that they plan to have their child use bus transportation.
Q. How will seating be assigned on the bus?
A. Seat assignments for students will be mandatory. To limit the physical contact between students, the number of students to be transported on a bus will be limited to one family per bench seat to a maximum of three to a seat. Single child families will be grouped together with classmates where possible. The front two seats will remain empty and be used for emergency purposes where possible.
Q. If we switch our children from at-home to in-class learning, or we change our minds about opting out of bus transportation, how will we get our children on the bus again?
A. Eligible families will be able to apply online to STSCO before their children can ride the bus again. It may take some time, however, for changes to bus transportation to take place, given the complexities of arranging busing for thousands of students across thousands of kilometres every day.
Q. Can parents and/or staff board buses to help students with special needs?
A. Parents and school staff may need to board the vehicle to assist with a student’s seat belt/harness or car seat. They should always wear a mask and eye protection (shield) when boarding the vehicle. Upon boarding the vehicle, prior to touching anything, the parent will need to sanitize their hands. There will be sanitizer available on the vehicle. They should not touch anything except the seatbelt/harness (i.e. do not touch seats when going down the aisle of a bus).
For Further Information
We know that students, staff and families will have more questions about back-to-school, and we will continue to work through our planning with the advice, guidance and directives of provincial and local public health officials. We, like families, want to safeguard the health and welfare of students, staff and the community.
We are committed to keeping our students, staff, families and community aware of all new developments and decisions. To do so, we will:
- continue to email families directly with any news regarding back-to-school planning
- post latest information on COVID-19 back-to-school planning at http://www.kprschools.ca/en/COVID-19.html
- alert families and staff to changes through the news media and social media as well.
For questions specific to COVID-19 and public health recommendations, please contact your local Health Unit:
Durham Public Health – Serving KPR Schools in the Municipality of Clarington
Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit – Serving KPR schools in Northumberland County
Hastings and Prince Edward Public Health – Serving Murray Centennial PS and Stockdale PS
Peterborough Public Health – Serving KPR schools in Peterborough and Peterborough County