Return to School Updates

Return to School Updates
Posted on 07/31/2020
Return to School Updates

On Thursday, July 30, 2020, the Ministry of Education announced its plan for school reopening in September. This important announcement will allow us to finalize our individual return to school plans and plan for enhanced health and safety protocols in our schools and offices. We will continue to collaborate with the Ministry of Education, the Northwestern Health Unit, the Northwestern Ontario Student Services Consortium and other school boards in our region. We will share more information on the next steps in the coming weeks.

You can read Minister Lecce’s Letter to Parents and the full news announcement from the Ontario government.

Our Guiding Principles as We Prepare to Reopen Schools

  • Ensuring enhanced health and safety protocols are in place so that students and staff are healthy and safe.
  • Providing an enhanced online/remote learning experience for students who choose to continue to learn from home.
  • Maintaining a focus on mental health supports for students returning to school and those who will continue to learn from home.
  • Assessing student learning and developing plans to provide appropriate interventions where needed.

Reopening of Schools 

Elementary (Kindergarten to Grade 8): Elementary schools will reopen in September with conventional in-person delivery of teaching and instruction, with enhanced health and safety protocols. Elementary students will attend school five days per week, remaining in one cohort for the full day, including recess and lunch. Cohorted classes will stay together as much as possible with one teacher. 

Secondary (Grade 9 – 12)
: St. Thomas Aquinas High School will be reopening in September with a conventional, in-person, five days per week schedule with enhanced health and safety protocols. The high school will be adopting a timetabling method that emphasizes cohorting of students as much as possible to limit the number of student-to-student contacts.

The Option of Remote Learning

Parents and guardians will make decisions regarding in-person attendance for their children for this school year and will have the option of remote/online learning if they do not wish to send their child(ren) back to school in September. Pre-registration for full-time remote learning will be required. Next week we will be sending out a Return to School survey to all parents and guardians. Please watch for this survey and complete it as soon as possible. Your prompt response to this survey will help us plan for school in September.

Enhanced Health and Safety Protocols

 Self Screening Icon

Self-screening: All staff and students must self-screen every day before attending school. Prior to the start of school, we will be providing a checklist to perform daily screening of children before arriving at school, and self-assessment tools will be made available to staff to ensure awareness of possible symptoms of COVID-19.
 Handwashing Icon

Hand Hygiene: Appropriate hand hygiene is one of the most important protective strategies. Kenora Catholic schools will be prepared to train students on appropriate hand hygiene, including the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer. We are currently installing additional hand hygiene stations and enhancing the cleaning of school sites. We will be following all recommendations regarding enhanced health, safety and hygiene practices. 
 Cleaning and disinfecting icon

Cleaning and Disinfecting: Heightened cleaning practices will be in place in all schools and offices. Schools will have custodial staff in the building and available to support frequent cleaning and sanitization throughout the school day. 
 Masks Icon

Masks: Students in Grades 4 – 12 will be required to wear non-medical or cloth masks indoors in schools, including hallways and during classes. Outdoor times, like recess, will be used as opportunities to provide students with breaks from wearing masks within their cohorts. Students in Kindergarten to Grade 3 will be encouraged, but not required, to wear masks in indoor spaces. Prior to the start of school, students are encouraged to practice wearing masks and learn what type of mask is most comfortable for them. Students may wear their own non-medical masks, and non-medical masks will also be made available for students who don’t come to school with their own mask. Medical masks and eye protection will be provided for all teachers and other staff of school boards. School-based staff who are regularly in close contact with students will be provided with all appropriate personal protective equipment. Reasonable exceptions on the requirement to wear masks will apply.
 Shared Spaces Icon

Shared Spaces: Shared spaces like gymnasiums and cafeterias would remain open to students. Shared items would be sanitized before being used again. 
 Cohorting Icon Cohorting: Schools will be implementing a cohorting strategy to keep students together in small groups throughout the school day, with limited exposure to multiple teachers or a wide variety of classmates. Elementary students will be cohorted with their classmates and homeroom teacher, with limited contact with other subject teachers or classes. St. Thomas Aquinas High School will be adopting a timetabling method that emphasizes the cohorting of students as much as possible. 
 Physical Distancing Icon

Physical Distancing: As much as possible, physical distancing between students and staff and between staff members will be promoted. 
 Limit Visitors Icon Visitors: In the 2020 – 2021 school year, schools will be significantly limiting visitors, including parents. Any authorized visitors to the school will be required to self-screen and wear a medical mask while on school premises. 
 School Bus Transportation Icon School Bus Transportation: Enhanced cleaning and use of personal protective equipment will be in place for drivers, as well as students (non-medical masks required for students in Grades 4 – 12 and encouraged for students Kindergarten to Grade 3). Students will have assigned seats on the school bus. Active forms of transportation (for example, walking and cycling) and private transportation by parents and guardians are encouraged where possible to ease pressure on transportation. Additional information regarding school bus transportation protocols will be shared by the Northwestern Ontario Student Services Consortium.

Mental Health Supports

We understand the news of a return to school may cause some students to experience stress and anxiety as they prepare to transition back to school. Our Mental Health team is available for single sessions, ongoing support or transitional support. Please email Sue Devlin, Mental Health Lead at, for a referral.

We know that when we work together, we are stronger as a community and are better able to enhance mental health services for children and youth. That is why we have partnered with Firefly to offer call-in summer counselling sessions for Kenora Catholic students, aged 8 – 18, on the dates below:

- Wednesday, August 5 at 1:00 PM    
- Tuesday, August 11 at 1:00 PM
- Wednesday, August 19 at 1:00 PM 
- Tuesday, August 25 at 1:00 PM

Red Lake:
- Tuesday, August 11 at 10:00 AM
- Monday, August 17 at 2:30 PM
- Thursday, August 27 at 1:00 PM

Please call or text (807) 464-6042 to book an appointment for the service.

Information Sessions with Director Haime

Director Derek Haime will be hosting live Microsoft Teams information sessions with staff and families to share information on Kenora Catholic’s return to school plans as well as enhanced health and safety protocols. There will be ample time provided at the sessions for questions. The information session for Kenora Catholic families will be the week of August 17 in the evening. An invitation will be sent to families via email.

More Information

Over the next few weeks, parents and guardians will be receiving additional details about the return to school plans and what it will look like for their child(ren) and family. Our next steps are to refine and adjust daily school routines, including drop-off and pick-up for students, nutrition breaks, directional routes within schools, illness protocols, recess routines and lunch routines, to name a few.

While we are excited that we can all return to school and learn together, there are still many details that still need to be addressed as we plan for the 2020-2021 school year. We will continue to update our parents and guardians via email and post information to our website and Facebook sites.

As a school community, our continued vigilance and cooperation will help us welcome our students back to school safely on September 3. Thank you, God bless and please stay connected for additional information.

Yours in Catholic education,

Dr. Derek Haime

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