Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
We know that many staff, parents and students will have questions in relation to our re-opening. Included below are some of the more frequent questions we have heard. We will continue to supplement this resource over time.
Updated September 16, 2020
- GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT COVID-19
- HEALTH & SAFETY IN WCDSB SCHOOLS AND ADMINISTRATIVE FACILITIES
- CURRICULUM, LEARNING & SCHOOL ACTIVITIES
- OTHER QUESTIONS
1. GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT COVID-19
Q: What is Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)?
A: The Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a new respiratory infection first identified in 2019. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more serious respiratory infections like bronchitis, pneumonia or severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). COVID-19 is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified.
Q: How does the virus spread?
A: Coronaviruses are spread mainly from person to person through close contact, for example, in a household or health care centre. They are most commonly spread from an infected person through:
- respiratory droplets generated when you cough or sneeze
- close, prolonged personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
- touching something with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands
For most people, COVID-19 causes only mild illness. Older people and those with a weakened immune system or underlying medical condition(s) are at a higher risk of developing severe disease. Here is how you can help stop the spread of COVID-19.
Q: What are the symptoms associated with Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)?
A: Symptoms of COVID-19 range from mild – like the flu and other common respiratory infections – to severe. The most common symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. If you have any symptoms, you can use the self-assessment tool to help determine if you need to seek care or testing. You do not need a referral from a primary care provider or Public Health to access testing. All the assessment centres take self-referrals. It is very important to get tested immediately if you become aware you have had contact with a person infected with COVID-19 or if you, yourself, are ill with symptoms of COVID-19.
Q: Where can I find the most up-to-date information about COVID-19?
A: For reliable, up-to-date information you may consult the Public Health Agency of Canada or
the Ministry of Health. You may also check this webpage or follow us on social media at @ROWPublicHealth for information for Waterloo Region. You may also review the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Frequently Asked Questions.
2. HEALTH & SAFETY IN WCDSB SCHOOLS AND ADMINISTRATIVE FACILITIES
Q: My child was sent home from school with COVID symptoms. Now what?
A: Please read the attached document from the Region of Waterloo
Q: What do I do if I have COVID-19 symptoms?
A: If you have any symptoms, you can use the self-assessment tool to help determine if you need to seek care or testing. You do not need a referral from a primary care provider or Public Health to access testing. All the assessment centres take self-referrals. It is very important to get tested immediately if you become aware you have had contact with a person infected with COVID-19 or if you, yourself, are ill with symptoms of COVID-19.
Personal Hygiene & Face Masks:
Q: Frequent hand washing has been noted as the most effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. What provisions are being made in WCDSB schools to allow students to wash their hands frequently?
A: Schedules will be modified to allow for opportunities for handwashing during the day. All sinks in schools have been verified operational and our inventory of soap and paper towels (where applicable) has been enhanced. We have also verified that our suppliers will have no problem providing supplies as the school year progresses.
Q: Will WCDSB be deploying hand sanitizers in schools?
A: Hand sanitizer will be provided for school occupants in classrooms, common areas, main office areas, and at the entrance(s) to each site.
Q: Can I provide my child with their own hand sanitizer?
A: Yes. Students and staff may choose to use personally provided hand sanitizer, as long as there is no added perfume. Personal supplies of hand sanitizer should not be shared with others.
Q: Will school staff be assisting students in applying hand sanitizer?
A: We hope that students will receive some training from their families on the proper use of hand sanitizer. For younger students and for those that need extra help, school staff will assist.
Q: In what situations or circumstances must masks be worn by staff?
A: All staff who are unable to maintain physical distancing in the course of their work will be provided with and asked to wear masks. Therefore all staff will be provided with and expected to wear masks. Reasonable exceptions will apply.
Q: In what situations or circumstances must masks be worn by students?
A: Students are required to wear masks on school buses. All students from Grades 4 to 12 are required to wear masks at school, as per provincial government policy. Reasonable exceptions will apply based on a formal request process. Students in Kindergarten to Grade 3 are also required to wear masks, although the formal request process for exemptions has been waived. As with any clothing item, words / images / designs on masks need to be school appropriate.
Q: I do not want my child to wear a mask. Can I opt out?
A: There are some circumstances where students cannot wear masks. Please bring these circumstances to the attention of your child’s teacher. Students are to be reminded to be respectful to those who cannot wear masks.
Other Health & Safety Considerations & Precautions:
Q: What should staff members and students who become ill at school or at home with symptoms of an influenza-like illness do?
A: All WCDSB staff are required to engage in a daily self-assessment before reporting to work, and anyone feeling unwell or identifying a concern based on their self-assessment should not report to work. Students are asked to follow the same protocol. The Ontario government’s self-assessment tool is available here: https://covid-19.ontario.ca/school-screening/ Should a student or staff member become ill at school they must immediately report to the Principal and arrangements will immediately be made for them to go home.
Q: What are custodians doing to disinfect schools?
A: Custodians’ schedules have been modified to focus on regular cleaning of high touch areas. Additional training and instructions will be provided to custodians in advance of the start of the school year. During the summer, all schools have been given a deep cleaning and will be ready for students in September. The school board’s inventory of cleaning and disinfecting supplies has been enhanced, and our vendors have confirmed that they will be able to supply our schools with cleaning products upon demand during the school year.
Q: Are drinking fountains being turned off to prevent the spread of infection?
A: Yes. Students will be asked to bring reusable water bottles, filled where possible, and to access bottle filling stations during the day for refills.
Q: My child takes a bus to school. What safety provisions are being made on buses to prevent the spread of COVID-19?
A: Between runs, high touch areas on buses will be wiped down with disinfectants. At the end of each day, each school vehicle will be cleaned and disinfected thoroughly. Masks will be required for both the driver and occupants of school vehicles. The style of mask required will be dictated by the Ministry of Education.
3. CURRICULUM, LEARNING & SCHOOL ACTIVITIES
Q: Can I still register my child for school for the 2020-21 year?
A: Yes! You can access the Online Registration form by clicking on the Register for School link on the WCDSB Homepage and then choosing either Kindergarten Registration, Elementary Registration or Secondary Registration. The link to Online Registration can be found on each page under the “Registration Options”
If you are not a Roman Catholic — but wish to explore a Catholic education for your child(ren) — please review the WCDSB Admissions to Catholic Elementary Schools policy. Our secondary schools are open to students of all faiths.
Q: I do not want my child to attend school in person this year. How will their learning be supported at home?
A: Parents who do not want their child to attend school must complete the WCDSB Parent survey. If a student’s family elects to have their child learn from home, they will be assigned a teacher who will provide work that may be completed at home and will receive some instructional support from the same individual. Students may transition back to their core teacher in the face to face classroom, at their own school, at a 4 week interval.
Q: What will remote, synchronous and asynchronous learning look like?
Remote Learning: Learning that occurs when classes are taught at a distance and when students and educators are not in a conventional classroom setting. Remote learning takes place in times of extended interruption to in-person learning – for example, as a result of a pandemic or natural disaster. Classes can be synchronous or asynchronous and can be taught online through a Learning Management System (LMS) or by using videoconferencing tools. In some cases, they may be delivered through emails, print materials, broadcast media, or telephone calls.
Synchronous Learning: Learning that happens in real time. Synchronous learning involves using text, video, or voice communication in a way that enables educators and other members of the school- or board-based team to instruct and connect with students in real time. Synchronous learning supports the well-being and academic achievement of all students, including students with special education needs, by providing educators and students with an interactive and engaging way to learn. It helps teachers provide immediate feedback to students and enables students to interact with one another.
Asynchronous Learning: Learning that is not delivered in real time. Asynchronous learning may involve students watching pre-recorded video lessons, completing assigned tasks, or contributing to online discussion boards
Q: If I choose to keep my child at home to continue learning remotely, how will their experience differ from what they experienced during last Spring’s March to June remote learning period?
A: The remote learning period last Spring took place in extraordinary circumstances, and board staff worked tirelessly to develop resources and teaching processes in the face of an unprecedented public health emergency. There were many successes, but we also understand there were some bumps along the road as well.
The remote learning available to students this Fall has been carefully developed to as much as reasonably possible mirror the teaching and learning happening in conventional classrooms. The following protocols are in place:
- During remote learning, students and parents will be provided with a daily schedule or timetable that includes 300 minutes of learning opportunities, with a combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning activities. Programming will be based on the full Ontario curriculum and include opportunities for guided instruction, large- and small-group learning, synchronous check-ins, and asynchronous independent work.
- Teachers will be available to students at all times during the teachers’ assigned teaching timetables, as they would be if they were face-to-face in a classroom setting.
- All subjects will be delivered (specific guidance will be provided for more experiential disciplines such as phys. ed, drama and art).
- Curriculum expectations will be assessed, evaluated and reported on an ongoing basis and will lead to a formal Progress Report and/or Report Card
Students may transition back to their core teacher in their face-to-face classroom, at their own school, at a 4 week interval.
Q: Can we create our own Hybrid model of school attendance? I would like my child to only attend two days a week and then participate in Remote Learning.
A: No. A hybrid model is not being offered. The two models of learning are in-school learning and remote learning. However, a parent that selects in-school learning may choose to keep their child home from time to time based on health related concerns. Students that are at home may access homework from the classroom teacher but may not be able to access synchronous learning opportunities.
Q: Will students need to provide their own learning materials (i.e. pencils, pencil case, crayons, etc.)?
A: Our elementary schools will provide necessary learning materials, however students are welcome to bring their own items such as pens, pencils, binders etc. that they will keep at their own desk/table. Secondary students are encouraged to bring their own binder, paper, and writing utensils. Secondary students may also bring their personally owned Chromebook or personal laptop.
Q: When will secondary school class schedules be confirmed?
A: Students will be carrying two courses per term. Their term 1 courses for semester 1 will be their period 1 and 2 classes, and their term 2 courses will be their period 3 and 4 courses, had it been a traditional semestered model. This pattern will be repeated in semester 2. Secondary schools will share individual schedules with students later in August.
Q: What is synchronous learning?
A: Synchronous learning occurs when teachers and students are connected for instruction remotely, but in real time. In most cases students will be learning from home for those lessons which are delivered synchronously. If a student is not available when the synchronous lesson is delivered, in most cases it will also be available as a recording.
Q: Will sports teams, clubs, school trips, co-curricular activities or retreat programs be cancelled?
A: At both the elementary and secondary school level, as the school year begins, the safest model for athletic programming will be through intramural activities.
School field trips will not occur to start the school year, but we will continue to monitor the province’s re-opening strategy and open those possibilities as proves prudent. In the meantime, “virtual excursions” are being encouraged in schools. Similarly, the seminal experience of Grade 8 retreats will be adapted as we begin the school year and will be resumed as proves prudent based on provincial and Region of Waterloo Public Health guidance.
Q: Will French Immersion programs be running in September?
Q: Will Co-op placements be provided in 2020-21?
A: In person co-op placements may be limited in the 2020-2021 school year due to the requirements of physical distancing and the availability of placements at businesses that may have been closed or continue to be closed due to COVID-19. Virtual placements are possible.
A: Yes, though some of the program requirements, (e.g., certifications) may be offered virtually.
Q: Is my child still required to complete 40 volunteer hours in order to graduate?
A: Yes, virtual volunteer opportunities are available. The 40 hours requirement was waived by the government for the 2019-20 graduating year (students who graduated in June 2020), but to the best of our knowledge is an applicable requirement for graduates in the 2020-2021 school year.
Q: Will Dual Credit programs be running in 2020-21?
Q: How will the daily requirements of students with special needs be met?
A: Beginning in September, students with special needs in elementary will be fully integrated in the core classroom everyday. Elementary schools will determine where classroom support staff need to be placed and, where necessary, staff will move to various classes as required to meet student needs. In secondary schools, students in community and active living classes will attend everyday. Personal protective equipment (PPE) will be provided for all 1-to-1 interpersonal contact with students. All special education support staff will continue working with students, schools and families via virtual technology. Principals have communicated to their school communities to ask parents/guardians of students who are medically fragile, immune compromised and/or have chronic or persistent medical conditions to ensure their health care practitioner(s) is consulted before determining the best setting for learning (virtual or conventional).
Q: What are the plans for children with special education needs in terms of keeping them safe when they have difficulty wearing a mask and social distancing?
A: We will ensure our staff have appropriate ppe and will work towards teaching mask wearing, social distancing and hand washing. At times the student may need to be in the spec ed room or an alternative classroom setting to ensure the safety of self and others. We would not make a child wear a mask but we will have to do our best to maintain the safety of all and create goals to work towards students independently wearing a mask and social distancing.
Q: Will my child lose their school based special education support if they return to virtual learning and not conventional in September?
A: Student assigned support remains in place whether the child is returning to a virtual classroom or their conventional classroom. Support remains at their school even if they are returning to the virtual learning environment.
Q: Is my child able to bring their own technology device to school?
WCDSB has partnered with Dell and Staples to provide families with cost effective and backpack friend devices to purchase. https://wcdsb.ca/programs-and-services/elementary-programs/byod/
For Families with financial challenges, RCT (Renewed Computer Technology) is providing low cost and free devices: http://rcto.ca/programs-rctech-outreach.asp
Q: Are WCDSB’s extended day programs running normally in 2020-21?
A: Yes. All extended day programs will be running, with additional cleaning protocols and safety measures in place. The 2 weeks’ notice period for all changes will be removed until August 31, 2020 to allow for families to create their scheduling care needs. Beginning on September 1, 2020, the 2 weeks’ notice period will again be in effect.
Q: Will elementary school students have the opportunity for outdoor recess in 2020-21?
A: To the extent that student numbers and yard space is adequate, recess will proceed as normal. Depending on size of yard or size of school student population – and the ability to maintain a compliant supervision schedule – more than one recess or lunch recess (or staggered outdoor time) could be facilitated.
Q: Are school bell times different than they used to be?
A: School bell times will remain very close to what they were previously. They may adjust by a few moments but for the most part, parents can plan for a start and end time that is consistent with past practice.
Q: How will entry and exit from the school be managed?
A: The objective in times of transition will be to maintain physical distancing. Each school will consider its local reality and formulate a plan that will best work toward the goal of keeping all students physically distanced at entry / exit and transition times. Public Health has shared the insight that 15 minutes in close proximity to an individual would be meaningful for purposes of contact tracing.
4. OTHER QUESTIONS
Q: Will school rental permits – Community Use of Schools – be available to the community in 2020-21?
A: Rental permits will not be available until January, 2021 at the earliest. Public health considerations will determine when permits may safety resume.
Q: Will outdoor recreation facilities at schools be open in 2020-21?
A: Yes. During school hours, students will be permitted to use outdoor recreation facilities at WCDSB schools, while maintaining appropriate physical distancing. Students will be required to sanitize their hands after outdoor time. Play structures will remain closed until further notice.
Q: Will the Catholic School Advisory Committees, the Special Education Advisory Committee and the Catholic Parent Involvement Committee be able to meet in the fall?
A: Yes. These committees will be meeting either in-person or virtually, to be determined based on public health considerations.