Board releases Return-to-School Guide

Limestone Learning Foundation
Board releases Return-to-School Guide
Posted on 08/31/2021
Image of students heading to school and words "Return-to-School Guide"

Dear Families,

Next Tuesday, on Sept. 7, 2021, students and staff will return to Limestone District School Board schools for the start of the 2021-2022 school year. We are excited to welcome most students back to in-person learning. While many health and safety protocols will remain, we are cautiously optimistic that we will have a more typical school year with a return to several, regular school activities within health and safety parameters.

As I have shared before, staff have been planning for the new school year since the spring. We began to refine school and district-based plans based on preliminary Ministry of Education guidance provided in May, as well as the more recent COVID-19: Health safety and operational guidance for schools (2021-2022). We also continue to meet regularly with KFL&A Public Health and other community partners to prepare as best we can for our third consecutive year impacted by the pandemic. Remaining flexible will continue to be critical.

Here are some important highlights for the return to school:

Screening & school protocols: The province released a revised COVID-19 screening tool last week. All students and staff must screen daily before they come to school. If you have any symptoms of COVID-19, or are feeling ill at all, you must stay home. School-based protocols on what to do if students have symptoms of COVID-19 at school, return to school following a positive case or isolation, and when an outbreak is declared are being finalized by public health. These will be shared on our website as soon as they are available.

School vaccination clinics: Public health indicates that vaccination remains the best way to protect students, staff and the community from COVID-19. Public health has hosted several vaccination clinics over the past several weeks around KFL&A including at some schools. School-based vaccination clinics will continue into September. Afternoon/early evening clinics will be held on Tuesdays and Thursdays at most Limestone secondary schools. We will share more information on the schedule soon. These clinics are open to anyone born in 2009 or earlier.

Vaccine disclosure protocol: The province announced on Aug. 17, 2021, that staff in school boards will be required to disclose their vaccine status. This protocol applies to all staff as well as school visitors, bus drivers, placement students, volunteers, trustees, third-party contractors, and other professionals who deliver services in Limestone schools. Staff will be required to provide proof of full vaccination, a documented medical reason for not being vaccinated, or participate in rapid testing at least once per week. School boards are also required to share depersonalized, statistical information regarding staff vaccinations on our board website monthly beginning on September 15, 2021. Currently, there is no mandatory vaccination requirement for students. The Immunization of Pupils’ Act governs the vaccinations of children and youth in Ontario and the Chief Medical Officer of Health did recently indicate the province is reviewing mandatory vaccines required in Ontario schools and considering the inclusion of the COVID-19 vaccination. The Board of Trustees has also asked the Minister of Education to consider mandatory vaccinations for eligible students.

Ventilation: As we have shared before, all classrooms will have filtered, mechanical ventilation through existing or upgraded HVAC systems, or stand-alone HEPA air filtration units. All Kindergarten classrooms will also be equipped with HEPA units regardless of the type of ventilation in the school. Limestone is placing 820 HEPA units in classrooms and another 30 units (these are equivalent in size to four classroom units) in school gymnasiums. Families can access information on school ventilation systems on the board website beginning Sept. 3.

Staggered start: Elementary schools may use a staggered entry to support the teaching of health and safety protocols to Kindergarten learners to ensure a smooth transition into school. Staggered entry may occur on Tuesday, Sept. 7, Wednesday, Sept. 8 and Thursday, Sept. 9. By Friday Sept. 10, the full Kindergarten class should be attending school. Schools will determine the best staggered entry plan that meets the needs of students and share that with families.

School reorganization: As we have shared earlier, families who wanted their students to attend the LDSB Virtual School were required to register in advance of the school year to allow for planning and appropriate staffing of both in-person and virtual school classes. This is a complicated annual process. Every fall, once school has begun, a reorganization of elementary classes is required.  This reorganization is often needed to allow for late registration or other movement within our system due to school transfer and moves etc. While we will limit movement to protect class cohorts as much as possible per COVID-19 guidelines, it may be required that some students move if we must add or remove classes based on actual student enrolment in a school.

Communication: Schools will continue to share site-specific information with families directly. The most up-to-date information will be shared on the board’s Return to School webpages which includes our newly released Return-to-School Guide and frequently asked questions. I also encourage you to view my welcome back video for a short synopsis of what you can expect as students return to school next week.

As we count down to the first day of school, I want to thank you for your ongoing support and flexibility as we respond to local circumstances. We know that the best indicator for the health of our schools is the health of our larger community in KFL&A. As a community, we must continue to work together to follow public health protocols and guidance to ensure schools remain safe and open. We know schools are a critical source of support for the children and youth of the communities we serve. Thankfully, based on statements from local public health authorities related to local vaccination rates and low case counts, we are well positioned to open schools safely.  We are very excited to welcome students back to school next week for the 2021-2022 school year.

Best of luck for a smooth start!

Krishna Burra
Director of Education

Letter to Ontario’s parents from the Minister of Education - Sept. 3, 2021


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