Back to School Planning - Making Sense of It All

Back to School Planning - Making Sense of It All
Posted on 08/07/2020
Back to School Planning - Making Sense of It All

School starts on September 3rd. This year, the return to school is complicated as we try to safely navigate COVID-19.

We are so fortunate that our community has been so engaged in the planning. The great participation in the ThoughtExchange survey was a significant indicator of community interest in helping us to support families in getting their children back to learning safely in the fall. Additionally, staff and trustees have received many communications sharing suggestions, and identifying areas of concern. We want to let you know that this input has been shared and considered in designing a safe and effective return to school.

As we continue to work out plans, in partnership with the Ministry of Education and health authorities, we wanted to provide an update about what we know at this time and when you can expect to learn more.  

What will school look like in September?

Students will be able to attend school In Person or by Remote Learning. Based on  Ministry of Education guidelines, student attendance will be organized in the following way:


  • Elementary students will attend school five days per week, with enhanced health and safety protocols in place. Students will remain in one classroom with the same group of students all day, including lunch and when they go outside for recess.
  • Secondary students (grades 9-12) won’t be returning to full-time classes. Instead, the secondary school year will be divided into four quadmesters (each semester divided into two sections) and students will take 2 classes at a time Each class will be divided into two cohorts. Cohort A will attend school 2 days one week and 3 days the next week; Cohort B will do the opposite. All students will be in class for five days in a ten day period.  The school day dismissal time will be earlier than usual. 


Students who participate in Remote Learning will receive instruction at home using a combination of live online instruction (synchronous) and posted learning activities and materials (asynchronous) which cover the required course curriculum. Remote learning will involve more scheduled learning activities for students than what occurred during the spring closure period, and students will be expected to be online and present for scheduled instructional times.  

Student and Staff Safety 

A major part of all planning is on student and staff safety. We have been working with health authorities, the federations, the Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee and the Ministry of Labour to ensure that safety precautions are in place. There will be a number of safety measures in place, including hand hygiene, physical distancing, personal protective equipment and more.  Some examples include:

  • Before coming to school, all students and staff must complete a COVID-19 self-assessment;
  • Access to school buildings will be restricted to staff and students;
  • Physical distancing and directional signage will be in place in all schools;
  • Upon entry at the school and into each classroom and at lunch and recess, hand washing/sanitizing will be required;
  • All students in grades 4-12 and all staff will be provided with masks and required to wear them in the building, and classroom-based staff will be provided with face shields;
  • Students will have designated desks;
  • School offices will have plexiglass shields;
  • Access to common areas will be restricted.

In Person or Remote Learning Is a Family Decision

We are enthusiastic to welcome all our students back to school, and we understand that families have different needs.  As a family, you decide whether children will attend school In Person or by Remote Learning.  We know this is an important decision and encourage you to speak with your child.  You may make different choices depending on the needs of each child.  We are here to support your decision and to provide your child with an excellent learning experience. 

Providing the information you need to make the decision

To help you make this decision, we will provide you with our updated return to school plans and safety precautions on Monday, August 10th.  All OCDSB families will receive an information email and a form which must be completed for each child. Parents will complete the form to indicate whether your child will attend school In Person or by Remote Learning. 

Do I Have to Complete the Form?

Yes, one form must be completed for each student by Friday, August 14th.  This is necessary to ensure there will be sufficient staff in place for both the in-person and remote learning models.

Can you change your mind?

We are planning our school structures with complete semesters in mind (September to January and February to June), but we understand that family realities can change. So, there may be designated points where a requested change can be implemented. We will work with families to support students in the best way possible. The timing of requests for change will have to be considered relative to assessment periods, semesters, class size, and available staff.  We are working with the Ministry to better understand how to support change requests.


We know you have questions, and we are continuing to work on answers. The information on Monday, August 10 will help to answer some of your questions and we will continue to provide updates as quickly as we can.  

Next Steps

This is a challenging time for everyone and we appreciate all of the input and suggestions that you have shared.  The safety of students and staff is our first priority.  We continue to monitor the incidence of COVID-19 in our community and to work with health authorities to make informed decisions. Please watch for the email on Monday and talk with your children about what is best for your family. 

We can all help support the safe return to school by following public health guidelines to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Yours truly,

Camille Williams-Taylor
Director of Education

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