Back to School FAQ

We know parents have many questions about the safe reopening of schools in September. To help support your family’s transition back to school – and to help new parents understand what to expect from your child’s school this year – we have put together a list of frequently asked questions.

What is the plan for September?

  • All schools (elementary and secondary) will fully reopen in September. Students will attend school for their usual school day, whether in-person or through remote learning.

How will remote learning work this year?

As required by the Ministry of Education, Niagara Catholic will offer a virtual learning for elementary and secondary students.

  • Elementary students participating in remote learning will be assigned a class through the Niagara Catholic Virtual Elementary School.
  • Secondary students attending school remotely will be assigned to a classroom at their home school and will be part of a hybrid style of learning. Secondary students will participate in “quadmesters,” which include two subjects daily rather than the “octomester” model followed last year.
  • Cohorts are not required for secondary students.

Are there transition dates to move between in-person and remote learning like last year?

  • To ensure stability within the classrooms for both students and staff, Niagara Catholic does not have transition dates to move between streams. Parents were advised prior to the end of the 2020-2021 school year that any requests to move to virtual from in-person learning or to re-enter school in person from virtual, during the coming school year are to be made through the school principal and will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Will there be online French Immersion this year?

  • Due to the low number of French Immersion families who expressed an intention to enroll their children in virtual learning this fall during our first survey in June, French Immersion classes will not be available to virtual students across the system. This may change should virtual French Immersion registrations in a particular grade increase to warrant a class.

Will my child have to wear a uniform or dress code if they are in remote learning?

  • Students attending school remotely (whether in elementary or secondary school) are not required to be in dress code or a school uniform. Students are expected to wear clothes that meet our standards on an out-of-uniform day.

Will Niagara Catholic provide technology again this year?

  • Families were advised in June that those who choose virtual learning for their children for the coming school year are expected to have adequate access to technology for students to fully participate in remote lessons. It is not necessary to buy high-end technology. Families should purchase technology that comfortably fits their budget. Chromebooks, WiFi-enabled tablets or entry-level laptops are suitable for most students.

Will there be sports or other activities?

  • The Ministry of Education has announced the return of sports and clubs for students attending school in person in September. They will return, likely with modifications, and following all protocols put in place by the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Niagara Region Public Health and the Ontario Phys Ed Association (OPHEA), as well as other governing bodies, such as OFSAA (for high school sports). Music, drama and other arts programs, and other programs such as robotics, will also return following safety protocols set in place by the government. Outdoor sports will be the first to be approved. Your child’s principal will provide more information as the school year begins.
  • New! On August 30, Dr. Hirji, Niagara's Acting Medical Officer of Health, provided stronger regulations for students in our elementary schools, who are primarily unvaccinated. Niagara Catholic's 2021-2022 School Reopening and Safety Guide provides detailed information about what will be permitted at the elementary level this year. Elementary sports will not commence until at least September 20 to allow staff to assess if it is safe to do so.

Will cafeterias, gyms and libraries be open?

  • Yes, following protocols and guidelines from the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health and Niagara Region Public Health.

Are masks required?

  • Masks are required indoors for all staff and students in Grades 1-12 attending school in person. Masks are optional but encouraged for students in kindergarten. Reasonable exemptions to the mask requirement will be considered on a case-by-case basis by principals. Elementary students and staff are advised to wear masks outdoors when physical distancing cannot be maintained.
  • New! Masking is required when playing high or low-contact activities both indoors and outdoors when they can be worn safely (based on the activity), when cohorts are mixed (outdoors - this is strongly discouraged by Niagara Region Public Health) or when physical distancing cannot be maintained - this applies to elementary school students and staff.
  • Please check the Mask sections of the 2021-2022 School Reopening and Safety and Safety Guide for full details on mask requirements for students and staff.

What about transportation?

  • Student transportation will continue this year as it did last year. There will be assigned seats for students to assist with contact tracing, if necessary. Masks will continue to be required on buses.

How can you guarantee my child will be safe from exposure while at school?

  • Last year, Niagara Catholic had fewer than 170 cases across our system. We believe the enhanced cleaning measures and all of the preventative steps we took (such as self-assessments for students, staff and the limited visitors we had to schools, signage about handwashing and physical distancing, regular reminders to stay home when feeling unwell and access to hand sanitizer) played a role in that. We will continue with those methods to keep our students and staff safe.

What about screening?

  • The Ministry of Education has mandated active self-screening for all elementary and secondary students from September 7-17. Niagara Region Public Health strongly recommends active screening for all students, staff and visitors and this will continue through the year. Students and staff will submit their daily assessments through an online portal, and occasional visitors to schools will sign in and complete a self-assessment in the office.

What about vaccinations?

  • New! The Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health and Niagara Region Public Health continue to promote vaccinations for all Ontario residents who can have one (based on their doctor’s guidance). In accordance with the Ministry of Education, Niagara Catholic required all staff to submit their vaccination status to the Board by September 7, to be submitted to the Ministry at a later date. A summary of the percentage of  Board staff that have attested to being fully vaccinated, fully vaccinated that have provided proof of vaccination, the percentage of staff who have not provided proof of vaccination and the percentage of employees who are not and do not intend to be vaccinated will be submitted to the Ministry, and Bord aggregate percentages will also be posted on this website. A COVID-19 Vaccination Disclosure Administrative Operational Procedure (AOP) is currently in development. Vaccination status is not required for students.

What about self-isolation?

  • Niagara Catholic will follow the local and provincial guidance on self-isolation requirements, which differ for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. In the event of an exposure, Public Health will take the lead on this and advise affected individuals on what they are required to do

What about ventilation?

  • Following all Ministry guidance, Niagara Catholic is working to ensure our ventilation systems meet all required standards. We have also invested in stand-alone HEPA systems. In August, the Ministry announced that all kindergarten classes will have stand-alone HEPA filters over and above any other systems in the school. We have sufficient supply to ensure a safe and healthy start to our school year and will continue to comply with all requirements.
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