Masks expected for kindergartners to Grade 12 when Simcoe County goes back to school

Only about five per cent of students will be learning from home in September

The Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) says all kids, from junior kindergarten right up to Grade 12, will have to wear masks when they go back to school in less than two weeks.

Dawn Stephens, Associate Director at the SCDSB, says the mask mandate comes via expert advice. “This really comes from provincial guidelines as well as from the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, who really supports full mask-wearing of all students in the school.”

Stephens says the school board is building on lessons learned last year. “We really want to continue with the enhanced safety measures that we had in place last year because we did find they were successful and really helps to minimize any transmissions in our schools,” she said. “That’s really our goal is to keep transmission in our schools very, very low. And so, we have found with masking, and hand hygiene, and cohorting, those are all things that have helped us on this path in the past.”

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“We’re also very lucky to have vaccines for our students in secondary schools, which will also be another measure to support preventative transmission,” she added.

SCDSB Associate Director Dawn Stephens speaking at a media conference on Thursday

Students will attend full-time in-class lessons with cohorting that will not mix or combine with other classes. Recesses and classes will be timetabled to limit interaction between classes, and students will eat in their own classrooms.

Common areas such as libraries and gymnasiums will be open and outdoor learning will be encouraged.

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While the option for remote learning remains in place for families with the SCDSB, Stephens says only a fraction took the board up on the offer. “We currently only have about five per cent of our students who have opted for remote learning and so we have staffed based on those numbers,” said Stephens, adding the decision to learn-from-home must be final, for now. “There is no opportunity to change at this time; you have selected a learning mode and that’s what you’ll start with until February. You can make a change then.”

Students who have opted for at-home learning may be combined into classrooms from multiple schools but will remain attached to their home school for academic supports. They will be provided with a daily schedule of subjects and courses according to a five-hour instructional day. Remote learning students in Grades 1 to 8 are expected to participate in 225 minutes of synchronous learning daily, while it falls to 180 minutes a day for kindergarteners.

At-home learners will be provided access to technology if they lack a learning device at home. Google Classroom will be used as the synchronous learning platform.

Kids across Simcoe County head back to school on September 7.