BACK TO SCHOOL FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Does my child have to go to school?
The Niagara Catholic District School Board continues to prepare and plan to reopen schools for the 2020-2021 school year. Due to COVID-19, the Ministry of Education has given parents the choice to send their child(ren) to school in-person or allow them to learn at home.
The return to school for students in September 2020 will be voluntary and based on parent/guardian choice. For parents/guardians who choose not to send their child(ren) back to school to attend in person, the Niagara Catholic District School Board will provide an option for students to participate in online remote learning.
How do I let the school board know my child is/isn’t returning to school?
All families will be required to complete the re-registration process, including students who have already been a part of our system. When you re-register your child(ren), you will be asked to indicate if they will be attending in-person or online. If you indicate that child(ren) will be attending in-person, you will also need to indicate whether they will use Board student transportation.
Can I keep my child at home to start, and then move them to in-person, or vice-versa?
Yes, families will be able to choose one form of learning, and switch to another. Parents who choose to start their children at home and then switch to in-person learning will receive a designated re-entry date.
Will the school day be shorter?
No, the school day will include the five hours of instructional time, plus lunch and recesses.
Will my child be permitted to attend school part-time?
No, parent(s)/guardian(s) are required to choose between in-person learning or online learning for the full day.
What is the difference between homeschooling and distance learning?
Homeschooling is a process where a student is not enrolled in a public or private school, but follows a homeschooling program taught at home. Students who participate in distance learning will follow the same lessons as their classmates, often at the same time.
If my child learns at home, am I their teacher?
No, all students who return to school – whether in-person or online – will be assigned a teacher. A parent’s role is to support student learning in whatever way works best for your family.
Will online learning be live classroom teaching, recorded lessons or both?
Students learning at home will be part of a virtual classroom that will include both synchronous and asynchronous learning.
Will I be able to contact my child’s teacher with questions or concerns?
Absolutely! Parents are valuable partners in their child’s education, and we encourage communication between the home and school. We want to hear from you!
How will my child participate in online learning?
Online learning will take place using the provincial platform D2L Brightspace platform provided through the Ministry of Education and accessed through the Niagara Catholic Virtual Learning Environment (NCVLE).
When will I find out my child’s teacher?
Parents and guardians will find out about their child’s teacher in late August.
Will I be able to find out how many students are in my child’s class before I make my decision?
At this time, we are asking parents and guardians to complete the re-registration process by August 21, 2020 as we need families to make a decision as early as possible to help us begin assigning classes.
My child is in French Immersion. How will this work for distance learning?
Students learning at home will be part of a virtual classroom that will include both synchronous and asynchronous learning. This includes students enrolled in French Immersion.
What will school look like?
School will look different in September and probably for the school year implementing the guidelines in the Niagara Catholic Re-Opening Plan. Parents received a link to the plan in the August 5 letter from the Director. Revisions to this plan will be shared this week.
Will bell times be the same?
For elementary schools, bell times will be the same as last year. Recesses and lunches will be staggered to limit the number of students in the hallway and outside at one time.
Will there be events and activities?
Events and activities are important parts of your child’s school year. Events will be carefully reviewed following the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health and Public Health guidelines.
Is it possible schools will close during the year?
Decisions about school closures will be made by the provincial government.
I share custody of my child with their other parent, who lives in the U.S. My child is able to visit them. Can they come right back to school?
At this time, Canadians are able to travel to the United States to visit immediate family. However, all Canadian citizens must follow the federal COVID-19 requirements about self-isolation after leaving the country. All students will be required to follow the 14-day self-isolation process if they travel outside of Canada to visit a family member.
Will the school year (Sept-June) and each day start/end at the same time as previous years?
The school year for students begins on September 8, 2020 and at this time the start /end times will remain the same.
Will there be appropriate considerations, structures and supports for students in Special Education classrooms?
Programs, services and supports will be available for students with special needs as outlined in their Individual Education Plans.
Where will the students eat their lunch? During lunch will they be able to go in the hallways and go outside?
Students will be eating lunch in classrooms and will be encouraged to go outside at lunch to get some fresh air and exercise.
How will extra-curricular activities be impacted?
Schools may offer clubs and organized sports only if physical distancing is possible, and equipment and spaces are cleaned and disinfected between each use. The Niagara Catholic Athletic Association will coordinate athletics schedules for 2020-2021 school year. Principals will update students and families as information becomes available.
Will students have lockers, or will they bring their bags to classes?
Students will not be using lockers until further notice.
Do students have to wear uniforms/dress code for school?
All students who are returning to school in class are required to wear their dress code (elementary) or uniform (secondary), except on designated days. Students who are participating in online learning do not have to wear dress code or uniforms.
Will children be required to wear a mask at school?
The Ministry of Education’s Return-to-School plan requires all that staff and students in Grades 4-12 wear masks. Masks are not required for children in Kindergarten through Grade 3, but they are encouraged.
Who will supply masks to students?
Each student will receive a cloth mask upon return to school. Parents may also choose to provide masks for their children.
Will students have to wear masks matching the dress code?
Students are permitted to wear the cloth mask of their choice, provided it is appropriate to be worn at school.
Can my child wear a shield instead of a mask?
Medical experts have determined that a shield is not a suitable replacement for a mask.
My child doesn’t like wearing masks.
It is a change for all of us to get used to wearing a mask when we are inside a public space. However, it is the best-known way of preventing the spread of illness when physical distancing cannot be guaranteed. Children are naturally very adaptable and will get used to the routine. To help your child adjust to the requirement of wearing a mask when school starts, please make this a positive experience by modelling a positive attitude about mask wearing, and letting them choose their own masks, just like they may choose their own pencil case or backpack.
My child has a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask. What do I do?
The Ministry of Education has required that all students in Grades 4-12 wear a mask, unless there is a medical exemption. To request an exemption from wearing a mandatory mask for your child, please contact your child’s principal.
How will you ensure students maintain physical distancing?
It is an expectation, following the Ministry and Public Health guidelines, that all students and staff are expected to remain distanced from others. Physical distancing markers and directional signage will be installed for the first day of school.
How will my child know what to do?
Grade-appropriate signage will be placed in schools and near classrooms, reminding students, staff and visitors of where to stand, and to stay a safe distance from others. Principals and school staff will also remind students regularly about the importance of physical distancing.
Will children be able to be close together when they are outside?
Students will have time to be outside each day, practising physical distancing.
Will desks be placed within the physical distancing guidelines?
It will depend on the number of students in a classroom. We will make every effort to distance students as far apart as possible. All desks will be placed in rows facing forward.
How often will schools be cleaned?
Niagara Catholic’s Facilities Services staff work hard daily to ensure that our schools and sites are healthy and safe environments for students and staff. Daily cleaning is a key component of this and will continue to be an important part of the reopening process. Enhanced cleaning is also a part of our reopening plan.
What are the safety/cleaning protocols for bathrooms and common areas like cafeterias, libraries and gyms?
The safety/cleaning protocols established by Facilities Services will be implemented for all schools, including common areas. Some common areas such as the cafeteria and library information centre may not be available to students.
Will bus schedules change?
Niagara Student Transportation Services (NSTS) is responsible for providing bus transportation. We are working closely with them on a transportation plan and will advise parents of the plan as soon as it is available.
Will bus drivers have to wear masks?
Yes, bus drivers will wear masks.
Will students have to wear masks on the bus?
Yes, students will wear masks while on the bus.
Can my child go to school if they are unwell?
No, as with any illness, children are expected to remain home if they are unwell. This is particularly important to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Do I have to do a daily health assessment with my child?
Yes. Families are expected to be good partners in their child’s education by screening their children on school days. This is the best way that we can ensure a healthy and safe environment for our students and staff.
What will happen if a student or staff member begins showing symptoms during the day?
If a student or staff member begins feeling unwell during the school day, they will be removed from the classroom and placed in an isolation area. Students or staff will be directed to follow the instructions given on the Government of Ontario’s COVID-19 Online Self-assessment Tool. Students and staff may return to school following a negative test.
What if my child’s teacher or classmate tests positive for COVID-19?
The Ministry of Education requires all schools to follow The Monitoring and Responding to Reports of COVID-19 Protocol. Locally, Niagara Region Public Health will work with schools and families on next steps if a case is found in a school.
When will timetables be available for secondary students?
Individual student timetables will be available after August 31.
How will exams work?
Students will be provided information about final assessments/ examinations by their subject teachers in order to complete the course.
Will students be able to return for 12B?
Students will be able to return to take additional courses as required.
Will the class size be a maximum of 15 students per class?
Secondary schools in designated school boards will open on an adapted model, with class cohorts of approximately 15 students, attending on alternate schedules that would include in person attendance for at least 50% of instructional days.
Will a student be able to switch cohorts after Semester 1?
Students will remain in the same cohort through the school year, in order to accommodate transportation.
What will Physical Education and music classes look like?
Physical education and music classes will be following health and safety protocols, including physical distancing and the personal use of musical instruments.
Will co-operative education courses/placements be available for students?
Cooperative education courses/placements will be available for students following health and safety protocols.
What will happen to classes that require working in specialized areas, such as technology to complete projects?
Health and safety protocols will be implemented for all classes including technological studies in specialized areas/locations.
How do cohorts work? Will students be in the same cohort?
Secondary school students will attend class as cohorts, or groups. Cohort A will attend school Mondays, Tuesdays and every other Wednesday. Cohort B will attend school Thursdays, Fridays and every other Wednesday.
Will siblings be in the same cohort?
Schools have been advised to place siblings into the same cohort to assist parents with planning and to support student transportation.