Kids go back to school Monday: What the Catholic and Public boards are telling families in Simcoe County

Both boards have highlighted the possibility of staffing shortages and school closures

An extended winter break ends on Monday as Ontario schools are re-opening for in-person learning.

Students were supposed to be back in the classroom on Jan. 3, then the province tacked on two weeks for what the government said was to ensure the distribution of N95 masks for all school staff and 3,000 HEPA air filters.

At a news conference on Wednesday, Education Minister Stephen Lecce highlighted the measures put in place to keep students and staff safe amid the Omicron wave of the pandemic.

“We believe so strongly that children need to be in school,” Lecce said at the news conference. “The province has strong protections in place that are fully supported by Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore.”

One of the key messages moving forward from the Simcoe County District School Board (SCDSB) and the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board (SMCDSB) is to expect the unexpected and have childcare provisions in place in the event of a school closure.

“As we return to in-person learning, we are anticipating the potential for higher-than-normal levels of staff absenteeism, as staff comply with the update screening and isolation guidance issued by the OCMOH (Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health). Although we are making every effort to mitigate the impact on schools and are putting supports in place, there could be circumstances where staff absenteeism results in the need for temporary school closures,” said the SCDSB in a statement on its website.

The SMCDSB basically said the same thing in a letter to families.

“Although we will make every effort to keep schools open, we are asking families to be prepared for the potential of school closures by having emergency childcare provisions in place. It is possible that a decision could be made as late as 6:30 a.m. the morning of. If a school closure is necessary, families will receive an email and an automated voice message. If a school is closed due to staff shortages, where possible, students will participate in remote synchronous learning.”

From the Simcoe County District School Board: https://www.scdsb.on.ca/covid-19

From the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board: https://www.smcdsb.on.ca/our_board/news_room/board_news/from_the_director__return_to_school_information

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