Important Update from the Director of Education

Dear WCDSB Community,

We hope that you continue to be well and that you are enjoying some of the beauty that the fall season affords us.  We are pleased that, for the moment, cases seem to be slowing provincially and in the region, and in general, currently we are seeing fewer cases in our schools.

This letter brings a few important updates of which we would like you to be aware as they are important to your understanding as to how things are unfolding and precautions we wish to continue to enforce, so that we may continue on a safe, healthy and positive path as a community.

Screening

As we have shared before, please know that one of the most important things you do each and every day is to complete the screening tool before you as a staff member or student (or parent of a student) arrive at school.  Any individual who fails the screener or who is symptomatic in any way should not be reporting to school.  That is part of our collective responsibility to one another.

https://covid-19.ontario.ca/school-screening/

Vaccination

We have started our conversations with Region of Waterloo Public Health about vaccination for our 5-11 year old but at this point, things are still in the planning and approval stage.  As updates become available and we have specifics to share, we will be in touch as promptly as possible.

Testing

On October 28th, the government did share additional updates in relation to program with PCR testing and rapid antigen testing (“Test to Stay”).  In both cases these programs feed from pilot programs in the province,  and will be utilized when deemed necessary.  Both are in relation to when there are positive cases being experienced in a given school community.  There are specific criteria tied to their use and are not general surveillance/screening tools.

Sports / Athletics

As reported in my last letter, we have been pleased to see the return of athletics and sport to our schools and for inter-scholastic play to have returned for those age 12 and older.  The criteria to play is full vaccination and/or proof of a negative test.  This strategy is being used in a very targeted way for students who are not able to use our other usual strategies to ensure their safety – that is – they are unable to ensure masking and social distancing.  We have been heartened by how well received the return to athletics has gone, and remain enormously grateful to our (coaching) staff for supporting this “return to play/competition”.  The tests we were able to provide, through the support of a local partner, are no longer available to us.  At a provincial level, informed by the Chief Medical Officer of Health, they have indicated we are no longer able to access or provide the tests.  We are disappointed by this decision as we did feel it was a safe and equitable way to deliver sports.  Our policy that a player /athlete must be fully vaccinated or provide evidence of a negative test has not changed.  Families will now have to source the tests.  Below we provide some links where those purchases may be made.  Of course, vaccination remains an option.

https://rapidtestcanada.ca/shop-covid-19-tests/

https://rapidtestandtrace.ca/

Inclement Weather Protocol

Every year at this time we like to share some reminders about protocols for snow days.  As you know – there are sometimes days in the winter when we have to cancel bussing due to the weather and unsafe driving conditions for our buses.  In the past, if roads were still passable, we would leave schools open.  On those days however, we often pooled classes based on the number of staff who fully attended and the number of students.  This year, as was the case last year, that is not possible due to our COVID-19 cohort – related restrictions.  In consultation with the public board, with whom we share bussing, when we cancel buses, we will close schools and have a remote learning day.  Your teacher will communicate with you in advance so you know where to look for school work for the day and protocols on such days, but in broad terms, the teachers will post work in the morning, no later than 9:30 a.m. and students will work on their own timing in their home.  It will allow all students to access some learning and we will be continuing to keep one and all safe.  We realize it may not be a perfect solution and learning day, but bus snow days rarely were.  We apologize in advance for any inconvenience and hope that we are not in this situation too often.

Potential Travel

A reminder that students under 12, travelling with vaccinated parents do not have to quarantine per se, but they are not allowed to return to school until 14 days from return have passed.  This guidance is found on our webpage.  This is federal policy we are sharing.

https://www.wcdsb.ca/covid-19-student-screening-and-testing/

Please review our full Operational Guidelines to ensure you understand how we are continuing to ensure a safe and happy school experience for all.

We are grateful for your support and partnership as we navigate this unique year.

Sincerely,

Loretta Notten

Director of Education

October 29th, 2021|

WCDSB Board Meeting Bulletin — October 2021

Meetings

Committee Of the Whole Board Meeting

Monday, October 4, 2021 – Meeting Agenda Package

Public Board Meeting

Monday, October 25, 2021 — Meeting Agenda Package

Highlights

Information Technology Services Update — Summer 2021

The Information Technology Services (ITS) department had a very busy Summer preparing for the 2021/22 school year. Continued COVID-19 preparations, restrictions and technology requirements have presented a level of complexity and unique work, making an ongoing high level of service an incredible challenge. ITS successfully completed many technology-related projects and initiatives that align with the Multi-Year Strategic Plan.

The report addresses the following key priority areas and accomplishments:

  • Classroom Educator Devices, Hybrid Sit-Stand Desks, and Headsets (MYSP 1.b.ii, 2.a.i, 3.a.iii)
  • WCDSB Goes Virtual (MYSP 1.b.ii, 2.a.i, 3.a.i, 3.a.iii)
  • Safe Applications for Educators and Students (MYSP 1.a.iii, 1.b.ii, 2.a.i, 3.a.i, 3.a.iii)
  • Aspen Parent Portal (MYSP 1.a.iii, 1.b.ii)
  • Distribution of Learning Devices and Internet Hotspots to Students in Need (MYSP 1.b.ii, 3.a.iii)
  • Human Resources System Workflow Integration (MYSP 1.b.ii)
  • Summer Preparations for the New School Year (MYSP 1.b.ii, 3.a.iii)
  • Rural School Grant Project (MYSP 1.b.ii, 2.a.i, 3.a.i, 3.a.iii)
  • Refresh Classroom Data Projectors (MYSP 1.b.ii, 2.a.i, 3.a.iii)
  • Wireless Backend Upgrades (MYSP 1.b.ii, 3.a.iii)
  • Bring Your Own Device (MYSP 1.b.ii, 2.a.i, 3.a.iii)
  • Centralized Security Optimization (MYSP 1.b.ii)
  • Web Resources and Social Media (MYSP 1.a.iii, 1.b.ii, 2.a.i, 3.a.i, 3.a.iii)

Work completed in Summer 2021 includes:

  • Approximately 300 new Special Education student devices were imaged and prepared for distribution
  • More than 200 learning devices were repaired
  • 2,998 learning devices were refreshed with new devices replacing broken and out-of-date devices no longer capable of running required instructional apps or accepting security updates
  • Created 1,489 classes in Google and D2L
  • Purchased and allocated 2,500 WeVideo school accounts for elementary video editing projects and 2,500 Adobe Creative Cloud licenses for secondary design related classes
  • St Boniface CES (new school) security, network, wireless, projector, phones and technology setup
  • Construction projects which involved removal and installing of technology at St. Louis Adult Learning, St. Kateri CES, St. Daniel CES and St. Teresa (Kitchener) CES
  • Network replacement and security optimization at Resurrection CSS
  • 30 new portables and classrooms were configured for data projectors, phones, network, computers and wireless.

The report is available beginning on page 8 via this link: Meeting Agenda Package

Summer Transition Programs

In the summer of 2021, WCDSB provided a variety of programs to support the needs of students across the system. In July, a Summer Reading Intervention Program was provided for targeted Gr. 1&2 students for three weeks to support phonological awareness, phonics instruction and to support student wellbeing. During the last two weeks of August — in collaboration with Special Education Teachers at each school site — we implemented a Student Transition to Fall Program to meet the needs of a variety of students who were identified by each school team. Furthermore, during the summer months the Mental Health Lead and Social Workers were on call to support students in respect to their mental health and well-being.

The Summer Transition Program initiatives addressed the following MYSP Key Performance Indicators (KPI) regarding student achievement, student attendance, student well-being and parent engagement:

  • Increase in achievement for “marker students”
  • Decrease the gap in achievement between those students on an IEP and those who are not
  • Improved student attendance

As we move into the 2021-22 school year, now, more than ever we see the importance of continued investment in well-being. Our guiding principles provided by School Mental Health Ontario that shape our work include:

  • We prioritize mental health and well-being as a key condition for students to learn and flourish.
  • We lead with compassion and empathy and take action to address equity within mental health and well-being.
  • We protect and promote student mental health with caring learning environments.
  • We have strong mental health foundations to recognize and build on the learning and experiences of the pandemic.
  • We make our way together; schools are part of a wider circle of support

The report is available beginning on page 22 via this link: Meeting Agenda Package

Student Re-engagement Strategy: 2021-22

The 2020-21 school year was like no other. Students were impacted by many school closures and the transition to online learning. Across the province many more students than in years past disengaged from their learning — exhibiting an increase in truancy, a drop in achievement and observed changes in their attitude towards school.

Many groups of students were disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Students identifying as Indigenous, Black and racialized, children and youth in care, students from low-income households, those with disabilities, special education needs, mental health needs as well as English language learners were identified as those who would benefit from additional support.

This year, the Ministry of Education provided funds to school boards to increase support to families to address gaps in learning, systemic barriers and disconnection with the school community. In budget deliberations last spring the Senior Team made a decision to augment these funds in order to create a specialized team that will provide concentrated support to families and students by identifying needs and assets, collaborating with all stakeholders and supporting the development and facilitation of an individualized reengagement plan.