Reopening Updates Including Virtual School

Reopening Updates Including Virtual School
Posted on 08/30/2020

Dear Families,

While we have had to adapt school plans with evolving information over the past few weeks, we are excited to start welcoming students back to school toward the end of next week. It is critical to remember that with COVID-19, the best indicator for the health of our schools is the health of our community. Based on statements from local public health authorities, we are fortunate to have ideal circumstances to reopen schools. It is critical that all of us to continue to follow public health guidelines to ensure this remains the case.

I am writing to highlight some important updates. You may already be aware of some of these items given the speed with which information is being shared.

  • The Board of Trustees voted earlier this week to have all students in Limestone – including Kindergarten to Grade 3 —wear masks at school and on the bus. This motion formalizes the board’s expectation of masking for the Kindergarten-Grade 3 age group. However, there will be no punitive action for younger students who are unable to wear masks. Our focus will be on education and moving these learners to compliance. Masks remain mandatory for all students in Grades 4 to 12, and staff, except those with necessary exemptions. All students should provide their own masks. Learn more about proper mask etiquette from our partners at KFL&A Public Health.
  • Our LDSB Virtual School for remote learners (Kindergarten to Grade 12) will soon be launched. The Virtual School will use the same content and expectations set out in the Ontario Curriculum as regular in-person learning, and will have its own administrator and teachers. We appreciate your patience as we structure the school to ensure as many “home” school connections as possible.
  • Secondary schools will work with families to communicate student timetables under the new “blocked timetable” model. More details on this model are available in our updated Family Reference Guide and frequently asked questions.
  • The Ministry of Education released its Operational Guidance: COVID-19 Management in Schools which includes how schools will manage ongoing protocols and potential outbreaks. Next week, we will share the new COVID-19 Screening Tool from KFL&A Public Health that all families should review with their student before each school day, as well as a simplified flowchart to help families navigate this important piece of our school reopening plan.
  • The federal government announced additional funding from a Safe Return to Class Fund to support back-to-school plans. Limestone will receive $2.5 million to support expenses related to staffing, transportation, remote learning, special education and mental health. This funding will support previously announced provincial funding and the use of Board reserve funds should they be required.

While we have been naturally focused on addressing health and safety matters and establishing new routines, we will need to place a renewed focus on issues of mental health, well-being and equity. Uniting these priorities is essential as the school year starts. Change is difficult at the best of times, and our current circumstances may have created anxiety among students, families, and staff. I know all staff, regardless of their role, are doing the very best they can to manage school re-entry. We are continuing to lean on each other to discuss challenges, concerns, strategies and solutions.

As I mentioned, we are fortunate to live in a community that is well positioned to deal with potential COVID-19 illness and outbreaks. Local public health officials continue to support school reopening in KFL&A due to very few positive cases, and no community spread. If circumstances change, we will adapt and work with public health to maximize student and staff safety.

While each family must decide what is best for them and the health circumstances of family members, we are pleased to see that the vast majority of students will be returning to in-person learning in September. I am confident in our public health guidance, in our protocols, and in our students and staff to do their part to reopen schools safely. Consequently, all three of my children will return when schools reopen next week. Schools are much more than buildings, and learning is much more than the curriculum. Schools are places for connecting with friends, building relationships and community, interacting with those who are different from us, and sharing a spirit of caring and collaboration. While we have been forced to adapt our structures and how we will deliver education, we must not lose sight of the larger roles our schools play in supporting young people and communities.

We can’t wait to welcome you back.

Krishna Burra
Director of Education

August 26, 2020: Letter to families from the Minister of Education