BWDSB Director’s Message: Preparing for Back-To-School Scenarios

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Media Release

July 23 – I hope all our students, parents/guardians, staff, partners, families, and community members are having a wonderful summer, and finding time wherever possible for relaxation and renewal after a challenging school year. We have been very fortunate to enjoy some amazing weather, and I trust everyone has been able to engage in many of their favourite summer activities to the greatest extent possible. 

It is especially encouraging to see that our region has now progressed to Stage 3 in Ontario’s reopening plans amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Let us keep our fingers crossed that we will continue on this positive trajectory. 

On that note, I wanted to share where we are in our return to school planning for September. The Ministry of Education has informed us they will be making an announcement during the week of August 4 on which of the three return to school models school boards in Ontario will be adopting. These models include:

ADAPTED – a modified model, with a mixture of in-class and at-home learning with smaller class sizes, cohorting (grouping) of students, and the delivery of education at school in blocks of days; 

CONVENTIONAL – (regular) school day with enhanced public health protocols; and 

AT-HOME – distance (virtual) learning with enhanced remote delivery. 

While the decision on which model we must follow will be made at the provincial level, our board has some flexibility in how we plan for that model. Following the ministry announcement, we will be communicating with our families and communities with details on how the provincially determined model will look locally in our schools. 

Bluewater District School Board’s  (BWDSB) planning team has been working extremely hard over the past several weeks to develop a comprehensive plan that will meet all the expectations in all three models provided by the Ministry of Education. We are also working closely with our local public health officials to ensure we have the necessary information to support the health and safety of our students and staff. There are many details to consider in our planning, and we are taking a measured approach that incorporates successful practices from other jurisdictions. 

Recently, we conducted a return to school survey to help inform our planning, which garnered input from almost 7,000 respondents. Most respondents would like for students to be able to return safely to school in September. The feedback also helped to identify the key concerns of parents/guardians in sending their child(ren) back to school. Some of the emerging themes included the approach to cleaning protocols, physical distancing and movement within schools, opportunities for safe outdoor time/play, personal protective equipment, and teaching students proper hand hygiene, among others. We are grateful for the thoughtful feedback and perspectives that were shared, which will assist us in ensuring that all health and safety considerations are addressed and shape every aspect of our plan. 

Please monitor our board website, www.bwdsb.on.ca, as we will soon be launching a new ‘return to school’ section with details on our plan for September and any related updates. 

With so much uncertainty still in the air, I am keenly aware of the level of difficulty and stress faced by our families, who are anxious to plan for September. No matter what direction the provincial government decides to take for returning to school, we will be ready for every eventuality and will be prepared to support the health, safety, and well-being of our students, staff, and families every step of the way.

Take care and stay tuned. 

Lori Wilder

Director of Education