THE VIRTUAL RETURN TO SCHOOL IN JANUARY– WHAT PARENTS NEED TO KNOW:

December 29, 2020

Dear Parents and Guardians,

Last week, the Premier of Ontario announced that beginning December 26, the province would enter a period of additional public health restrictions and protocols to help curb the spread of COVID-19. One of these protocols is related to schools and requires all publicly funded and private elementary and secondary schools to move to teacher-led remote learning on January 4, 2021.

Classes resume for students across Niagara Catholic on Monday, January 4, 2021.

Virtual Elementary and Secondary Schools

Students who attend the Virtual elementary and secondary schools will continue as they did prior to the Christmas break. There are no changes to the Virtual schedule.

Continuing Education

All Continuing Education programs will move to remote synchronous learning except for the Personal Support Worker program practicum, which will be suspended until Jan 24, 2021.

Information about changes for students who have been attending school in-person who are now attending virtually during the shut-down is below.

Elementary Schools

Teacher-led, remote learning begins for students in Kindergarten to Grade 8 on Monday, January 4, 2021.

The morning of January 4 is set aside for meetings and planning for the week. Synchronous learning will begin in the afternoon, following the school bell times. Your child’s teacher will contact your child in the afternoon of Monday, January 4 through the NCVLE to get started in remote learning. This will be the platform used throughout the week. The remainder of the week will be a combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning.  For those who need a refresher on how to access the NCVLE, a how-to video is here.

Learning will follow the school day schedule as much as is possible. Students will begin at the same time of the day, lunches will be at the same time, as will recesses and dismissal.

Students are expected to be online for synchronous learning. Attendance will be taken throughout the day. Although students will be at home, parents should still report their children as absent/ill if they will not be participating in class for the day. Absences are to be report using the Safe Arrival mobile app, through the parent portal website or by phone at 1.844.287.6287. School Messenger will send out absence calls/emails to families of students who are marked as absent during the day.

During the week of January 4-8, teachers will:

  • Post work online every day for students who cannot connect in real time
  • Post the synchronous schedule for each day and provide any necessary links for their sessions
  • Divide their day between direct teaching and answering students’ questions and providing feedback

By the end of the week of remote learning, students in Kindergarten will receive 180 minutes of synchronous learning in the instructional day, and students in Grades 1-8 will receive 225 minutes of learning in the instructional day.

Teachers will take attendance both in the morning and after lunch.

Teachers will use their professional judgement as to how best to engage students in learning in all curriculum areas.

Teachers will use their professional judgement when it comes to introducing new concepts during the period of virtual learning.

Parents will determine what works best for their children in terms of screen time.

All in-school instruction for elementary school students is scheduled to resume on Monday, January 11, 2021.

Secondary Schools

Secondary schools will be closed for in-person learning from January 4-22, 2021. During this time, students will follow their regular schedule. Cohorts A and B will learn remotely from home as a single cohort and will return to their assigned cohort when in-person classes resume. Currently, the date to return to in-person classes is Monday, January 25, 2021.

The instructional day will be comprised of both synchronous and asynchronous learning for students with 225 minutes of the course delivered synchronously each day.

Students are expected to be online for synchronous learning. Attendance will be taken throughout the day. Although students will be at home, parents should still report their children as absent/ill if they will not be participating in class for the day. Absences are to be report using the Safe Arrival mobile app, through the parent portal website or by phone at 1.844.287.6287. School Messenger will send out absence calls/emails to families of students who are marked as absent during the day.

Teachers will use their professional judgement to support student learning for those who cannot fully participate in synchronous learning during the virtual learning period.

Not all learning will be digital. Students will be engaged in off-line activities during the virtual learning period.

Teachers will continue to assess student progress during the virtual learning period.

The virtual learning schedule (start time, lunch and other breaks and dismissal) will be communicated to families by the principal before January 4.

Niagara Catholic Virtual Learning Environment (NCVLE)

Students will access online learning through the Niagara Catholic Virtual Learning Environment (NCVLE). Information on how to access the site is posted above. Students can also access the Student Support Hub, and additional information and communication for parents can be found on the Parent Support Hub.

Access to Technology

Niagara Catholic has a limited supply of electronic devices to provide to students during the week-long school closure. Any technology loaned to students for the week must be immediately returned to the school when schools re-open. The school will coordinate the delivery and return of technology.

Transportation

Transportation for elementary students will resume when in-person classes resume on January 11.

Transportation for secondary students will resume when secondary in-person classes resume on January 25.

Student Support

In both elementary and secondary, students with complex special education needs will continue to be supported by their classroom teacher as they learn remotely with their classes from January 4-8.

The Ministry has directed staff to work from home as much as possible during the school closure, meaning there will not be staff available at our schools during the week of January 4 to support students with special needs.

We recognize that some of our students with more complex, special education needs may not benefit from virtual learning. Parents may request that their child return to in-person learning prior to the January 25 re-start date. To ensure the safe return of students with complex special needs to our secondary schools, requests should be made to the school during the week of January 4-8 and decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis. All students approved for in-school learning will begin in-person learning on January 11.

Depending on the number of families who choose to send secondary school students with special needs to school beginning January 11, parents should be aware that Niagara Catholic may have to create community-based cohorts for the duration of the closure, to limit the number of sites being accessed. Should this happen, we will advise families of their child’s designated school and school staff will share their schedule. Parents should prepare their children for the possibility that they may not attend their home school, be taught by their usual teacher or have the support they are accustomed to and make a decision about sending their child to school accordinglyIt is important that families take steps early to support their child’s learning at home. Please contact the school for assistance with your child’s programming and support needs.

During the closure, students will participate in synchronous and asynchronous learning options, and will receive additional virtual support through specialized staff such as Special Education classroom and resource teachers, ABA team members, speech and language pathologists and other support and resource staff.

If you believe that your child’s learning needs cannot be met during the virtual learning period, please call the school on January 4 for support. Collaborative planning between parents and school staff is the key to a successful virtual learning period for everyone.

Mental Health Supports

Niagara Catholic Social Workers will provide phone consultations and virtual therapy to elementary students until students return in-person on January 11, and virtual therapy to secondary students for the remainder of their virtual learning period. They will work remotely during the school closure.

Elementary Child and Youth Workers will provide awareness, prevention, and promotion programming virtually during the school closure. They will return to schools when elementary schools reopen January 11.

Secondary Child and Youth Workers will provide phone check-ins and virtual programming to families during the school closure.

All students and families have been provided crisis number information and supports in the community from the Mental Health Team. Students specifically receiving mental health supports have been provided community support information and safety planning.

Families in need of immediate support, are advised to contact the Pathstone Mental Health Crisis Number at 1-800-263-4944, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Following the call, crisis support staff may determine that if further support is needed. Pathstone’s Hear & Now Walk-In Clinic is an option for face-to-face support. Another option for those in crisis is to go to the local emergency department.

Students and families can also call the provincial Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868 or text CONNECT 6868 and access resources through School Mental Health Ontario.

Learning Resources

The Ministry of Education recently announced the launch of a new portal developed by Ontario certified teachers, TVO Learn.

Government Funding for High School Students

A new Government Support program for secondary student parents has been launched. If your child is between 13 years of age through Grade 12, you are eligible to receive a one-time payment of $200 per eligible student to help offset education expenses. The application instructions will be available on the Support for Learners web page. Secondary school student applications will be open from January 11, 2021 to February 8, 2021.

Extended Day Programs

During the lockdown period, there will be no extended day programs permitted in elementary schools.

Child Care Centres in Schools

We are currently awaiting Ministry of Education approval for emergency childcare for essential workers within our schools. Ministry approval will be based upon demand in a specific area. When such approval is granted, operators will contact families directly to confirm programming.

Our EarlyOn sites will continue to offer virtual programming.

Stay well and safe, and have a Happy New Year.

Camillo Cipriano,

Director of Education

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