Additional return-to-school updates

Limestone Learning Foundation
Additional return-to-school updates
Posted on 01/19/2022
Image of two high school students wearing masks in the library.

Dear families,

Thank you for your patience as we returned to in-person learning Tuesday after a mammoth snow day in our region on Monday. As we welcome students and staff back into our schools, there are many important updates to share. As has been the case throughout the pandemic, sometimes it takes some time to review new guidelines and directives so that we can ensure supports are in place to support teaching and learning and adjust to changing circumstances.

Please continue to screen your student(s) daily for any symptoms of COVID-19. It is critical that students do not attend if sick so that we can keep schools safe and open. If your student does have symptoms, please follow the school protocols set out by KFL&A Public Health.

This week, elementary schools will distribute two Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) to in-person students for use at home if they develop symptoms. Secondary students will receive RATs once our supply increases, but a take-home kit can be provided if a secondary student develops symptoms at school. Our limited supply of PCR tests will only be provided to symptomatic students and education staff experiencing symptoms most associated with COVID-19 while at school. Please take time to review the new guidelines for use of RATs and PCR tests.

We continue to deal with potential staff shortages due to COVID-19. It is important for families to understand that schools may need to temporarily pivot to remote learning from time to time to support safe learning environments. Also, while we took the exceptional step of closing schools Monday due to the significant winter storm, usually weather only impacts buses and schools remain open as we saw today. Often, however, some staff have difficulty reporting to their home school which could affect student supervision. While it has been our practice during COVID times to maintain class cohorts (sometimes by moving students into larger spaces), this may not always be possible, and some classes may have to be combined on inclement weather days. While we will try to maintain cohorting, if we must combine cohorts on other days to ensure supervision and keep schools open, we will try to provide advance notice.

As we shared last week, we understand some families may not feel comfortable sending their elementary students back to in-person learning at this time. To help accommodate elementary families as best as possible, the board is collecting information via a short survey open until January 24. If you are a family who plans to continue with in-person learning, or have a student in secondary school, you do not need to complete the survey. You can read more about the survey on our website.

Families who have chosen short-term virtual learning until the end of the current term/quadmester are encouraged to review a variety of online learning resources available via the board website including supports from TVO to help supplement asynchronous work provided by the classroom teacher.

We know many families are keen on continuing to receive information related to COVID cases/exposures to help inform decisions regarding sending students to school. As we shared earlier, without widespread testing as before, our ability to provide data has changed, and will largely be based on what is self-reported. We are currently exploring a few options, including student and staff absence rates, and self-reporting of positive cases (RAT or PCR) to allow us to provide some useful information. We also need to ensure that any options we choose ensure the privacy of personal health information. The data we provide will be different from what was shared previously because the PCR testing, investigation, and contact tracing by Public Health is no longer available. We will share an update very soon.

While the risk of COVID-19 cannot be eliminated in schools when community transmission is high, KFL&A Public Health has indicated the risk of transmission in schools is significantly reduced by the many layers of protection that have been put in place, including vaccination. Public Health authorities remain clear that vaccination remains the most effective protection against the virus and its variants. Ensuring that all eligible individuals are fully vaccinated will provide them with a strong level of protection and help to keep schools as safe as possible. KFL&A Public Health is gathering information about local families’ choices whether to vaccinate their 5 to 11-year-old students against COVID-19 via a short survey. The survey will help Public Health support parents, guardians, and caregivers make informed choices about vaccination, and how to better deliver COVID-19 vaccine clinics for children in our region. Please take a few minutes to fill out the survey before January 31.

Finally, we have already begun to plan for next school year. The board is seeking feedback from families on the proposed 2022-2023 school-year calendar. You are invited to take a few minutes to provide input via an online survey that is open until January 26.

Despite some natural trepidation, it has been heartwarming to see and hear how happy most students and staff were to be back in school. One school posted to social media that the best part of being back in person was hearing student laughter. As I have said before, schools are about so much more than learning. Making connections and building relationships remains one of the most important aspects of school to support wellness. With your help and support, we will keep our schools open, safe, and a positive and nurturing environment for everyone.

Take care.

Krishna Burra
Director of Education

The Limestone District School Board is situated on traditional territories of the Anishinaabe & Haudenosaunee.