Dear Parents/Guardians and Students,
Earlier this week, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore announced additional changes to COVID-19 guidance for the province. His update was followed by additional details from the Ministry of Education which provided specific guidance to school boards. Last night, Trustees held a Special Board Meeting to review the guidance and determine the impact on staff, students and school communities in the Toronto District School Board.
For the past two years, the TDSB has prioritized the health and safety of students, staff and school communities. As we move to a more sustainable, long-term approach to managing COVID-19, you are encouraged to continue with the layers of protection that make you feel comfortable. Please remember to show respect for others and their individual choices based on their own assessment of risk.
We remain committed to supporting a healthy, safe and respectful environment for all students and staff. Let’s ensure that our schools continue to be welcoming and inclusive spaces for all, regardless of personal decisions related to COVID-19 health measures.
As per direction of the Ministry of Education, the following health and safety measures will continue to remain in place:
- Students and staff are expected to complete daily screening before coming into a TDSB building
- Enhanced cleaning
- Optimizing air quality and ventilation, including having more than 17,000 HEPA filters in every occupied classroom
- Encouraging hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, such as coughing into your sleeve
- Reporting daily absences of staff and student and notifying Toronto Public Health when absences exceed 30%
- Distributing Rapid Antigen Tests to support symptomatic testing only
- Providing medical masks to students upon request and medical masks and/or N95 masks and other PPE for staff on request
As per direction from the Ministry of Education, the following health and safety measures will change or no longer be in place.
As of March 21, masks will no longer be required to be worn in schools, though they are strongly encouraged. Personal protective equipment, including medical and N95 masks, face shields and glasses, will continue to be provided to school boards for staff. Medical masks will also be available to students.
The Board of Trustees has voted to rescind the COVID-19 Vaccination Procedure for Employees, Trustees and Other Individuals (PR734) and lift the mandatory requirement for staff to be vaccinated, as of March 14. This move is in line with the provincial direction on health and safety measures and follows consultation with TDSB union and federation partners. To date, more than 90% of TDSB staff are fully vaccinated. In addition, older students have high rates of vaccination and numbers continue to increase in students aged 5 to 11. The TDSB will now begin to plan for a transition toward returning unvaccinated staff to work.
The province has updated their household isolation measures to indicate that in some cases, household members may not need to isolate if there is a positive case of COVID-19 in their home, depending on their vaccination status.
A daily COVID-19 self-assessment, which includes understanding of federal travel guidelines, should continue to be done before leaving for work or school, but, as of March 21, 2022, students and staff are no longer required to show proof of verification of their daily screening on the ServiceNow app. Visitors will be permitted into school buildings and are also required to do a COVID-19 self-assessment.
COVID-19 Testing and Updates
The province will continue to provide Rapid Antigen Test kits to school boards bi-weekly to support symptomatic testing for students and staff. Positive case notification letters to impacted classrooms will continue until the end of March and will be reassessed at that time.
Cohorting and Physical Distancing
Cohorting and distancing will no longer be required in schools. Assigned seats and cohorting will no longer be required in student transportation. Elementary students can play and learn together across cohorts, classes and grades, both indoors and outdoors and during lunch and recess. Shared space can be fully utilized without distancing and programs across grades, such as reading buddies, can return. Limitations on in-person gatherings and assemblies will also be removed and schools can plan and host in-person events.
In addition, extra-curricular activities may resume as normal pending the availability of staff volunteers to lead the activity and music programs, including vocal and wind instruments may continue.
While these changes may be welcome for some, some students and families may find this transition challenging. The TDSB will consider accommodating requests for short-term remote learning within current teaching capacity in virtual learning, and in alignment with provincial guidance. Remote learning resourcesare available to students and families to support this transition.
It’s important to note that, during their Special Board Meeting on Thursday, March 10, TDSB Trustees voted to write a letter to Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Minister of Education, and Toronto Public Health to request, among other things, that the TDSB be allowed additional time to remove COVID-19 measures in schools. A response has been requested by Wednesday, March 16. Should that request be approved, the changes and timelines referenced above may change. Should that happen, we would share an update with the TDSB Community as soon as possible.
The TDSB, in partnership with Toronto Public Health and the Ministry of Education will continue to monitor the COVID-19 situation closely. Thank you for your continued work to keep our TDSB community safe and healthy.
Should you have any questions, please contact your school.