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Section 3: Preparing Our Schools

Section 3: Preparing our Schools

The health, safety and well-being of our students and our staff is a top priority as the UCDSB reopens schools for the 2020-2021 school. Current evidence from public health officials and experience from the operation of child care sites throughout the province over the past four months supports the concept that children can return to school when additional measures and specific operating procedures focusing on enhanced health and hygiene are in place.

3.1 School Start Up

All school sites operated by the UCDSB will be open for the start of the new school year.  The Ministry of Education has permitted school boards across Ontario to delay the beginning of the school year and to stagger student entry to school in order to be prepared for a safe return for students.  Our schools will open for in-person learning five days a week with enhanced cleaning and safety protocols.

In an effort to teach and practice the new school routines with students and to reinforce the new health and safety practices, the UCDSB will welcome students back to school in a staggered entry beginning on September 11, 2020.  The following schedule outlines how groups of students will be attending school. 

For Kindergarten to Grade 8:  Students with surnames A-G will start on September 11 and continue, surnames H-P will start on September 14 and continue, surnames Q-Z will start on September 15 and continue. This will have all our students in class by September 15.

For Grade 9-12: Students in Grade 9 will start on September 11 and continue, students in Grade 10 will start on September 14 and continue, students in Grade 11 and Grade 12 will start on September 15 and continue. This will have all our secondary students in class by September 15.  

Please note that from September 4 to September 10, teachers will be checking in with our virtual learners and finalizing school routines.  

September Calendar

The Ministry of Education has indicated that, for the 2020-2021 School Year, in-person attendance is voluntary, and parents may choose between in-person and remote learning. A registration survey was conducted from August 14-August 20 for families to indicate if their children will return to in-person learning at a physical school site or if they will be opting for remote learning at home. Parents had a second opportunity to change their decision through an additional survey that was open between August 24 and August 28.

As of August 28, approximately 80% of our students will be participating in in-person learning. More about the remote learning program in section 5.3.

3.2 Admission for Students to Transfer from Remote learning to Local Schools After September 2020

If families change their decision regarding whether they want their children to attend in person learning after the start of school, their requests for a change will be addressed as soon as possible.

We will ask that families be patient as some time will be required to develop transition plans from one form of learning to another, as we will need to adhere to Ministry of Education and Public Health guidelines that support student and staff health, safety and well-being.

Secondary students returning to in-person learning may be limited to the new quadmester based on course availability, enrolment, and time missed in the course.

In all cases, parents are asked to consult with their local school’s principal to confirm timelines and any requirements.

Secondary school students seeking registration to a new school, including transfers between schools in the UCDSB, may not be guaranteed in-person learning and may need to be enrolled in remote learning until the beginning of the next quadmester.

More information is available in the Remote Learning Guide.

3.3 Preparing our School Sites – General Site Preparation Measures

There will be changes evident at schools and the central office. Plexiglass, where possible, has been installed in areas that involve the direct service to members of the public. Hand sanitizing stations have been set up for use immediately upon entering any of our buildings.

Each school will determine where signage and markings are required, inside and outside of the school, to assist students in maintaining physical distance from each other. Locations include entrances to the school, classrooms, exits, washrooms, Learning Commons, areas where students line up for entry or exit and other common areas in the school. Markings and signage may also be used to indicate traffic flow, should schools deem it necessary for physical distancing to identify directional traffic patterns within the school. Explicit teaching and opportunities for practice by students to develop comfort and familiarity of these requirements will take place early and often upon return to school, and throughout the school year.

3.4 Water fountains

Only water bottle filling stations will be available for use in the schools.  All drinking fountains will be decommissioned.  Students should come to school each day with a full water bottle, labelled with the student’s name.

3.5 Custodial support in schools

All custodians will be conducting stepped-up cleaning with more frequent cleaning of high touch areas and shared spaces. Hand sanitizing stations and/or sinks with soap and paper towel are available in each classroom for frequent hand washing.

3.6 Physical spaces within classrooms

Classroom educators will arrange furniture within the classroom to promote physical distancing. Carpets will be removed from classrooms. Students will be assigned to a workspace within the classroom and the teacher will maintain a record of the seating assignment.

Furniture in Kindergarten classrooms should be arranged to identify physically distanced play areas for smaller groups of students. Plush toys, resources and equipment that are not easily cleaned are to be removed from student access.

3.7 Health Screening

Parents and staff will follow established public health protocols for screening. Parents need to use the Parent Screening Tool, provided by public health, for daily health screening before sending children to school.  

Staff will be expected to self-assess for COVID-19 symptoms each day and will report to their supervisor and their local health unit if they are experiencing symptoms.  

Students and staff are NOT TO ATTEND school or their workplace setting if they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.  If anyone is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, they are to consult with public health to determine next steps.  

3.8 Outbreak Protocol

Our local public health professionals will provide all local school boards with an Outbreak Protocol that schools will need to follow should a case of COVID-19 be confirmed at a school. Any person who has been diagnosed with a confirmed case of COVID-19 must follow the directions of Public Health prior to returning to school. The provincial government has recently released its Operational Guidance: COVID-19 management in schools. The UCDSB has developed, in collaboration with Public Health, a protocol for infection prevention and monitoring. 

3.9 Contact Tracing – Students

Records will be maintained at each school site and by each classroom teacher detailing students in attendance at the school. Classroom teachers will also keep records of seating assignments in the classroom. 

3.10 Parents, Volunteers and Visitors Within Our Schools

Visitors and volunteers will not be permitted into school buildings or workplaces at this time. This includes family members of our students.

In the case of an urgent matter, visitors wishing to access a school or central office must call the school or central office to schedule an appointment before appearing on site. Unscheduled visitors – including family members of child(ren) – can expect to be asked COVID-19 screening questions prior to entering the school. Also, entry may not be granted immediately. Wherever possible, telephone or virtual meetings with parents/guardians, vendors and outside agencies will be held.

Any visitor or non-employee that is authorized to have access to a UCDSB school or workplace site will be required to provide contact information, such as name, phone number, email address, the time of arrival and the time of departure. Any authorized visitor will be required to respond to on-site COVID-19 screening questions before being permitted to enter the building.

In accordance with provincial regulations, emergency services personnel, public health inspectors, and inspectors from the Ministry of Labour continue to have access to school sites as per past practices.

Representatives of our union groups (ETFO, PSSP, CUPE, OSSTF) have the right to access employer’s premises where their members are working. This is a provision under the Labour Relations Act, and we support our employee’s rights to meet with their representatives. Union representatives accessing a UCDSB premise must adhere to the health and safety protocols established for access for non-school staff and students.

3.11 Meetings

Until further notice, all meetings involving non-employees are to occur in a virtual manner. This includes School Council meetings, case conferences, assessment feedback meetings, parent-teacher meetings, etc.  Further guidance for staff meetings is provided in the School Operations section of this document.

3.12 Wellness Room

Each school will identify a separate room as a Wellness Room. This room will be used for the purpose of isolating a person who has become ill at school. The ill person will remain in the room until they can be picked up from school. A COVID-19 kit will be provided for use by staff and the student in the Wellness room. The kit will contain resources such as personal protective equipment (e.g., face masks, gloves), along with instructions on how to properly use the resources. Staff will not be doing COVID-19 tests on students. These can only be administered by a healthcare professional.

An internal procedure for the use, management, and maintenance of the room was distributed by email to all school administrators on August 31, 2020 as a separate bulletin.

3.13 Transportation

School bus transportation continues to be available for eligible students. The Student Transportation of Eastern Ontario (STEO) is encouraging the use of active forms of transportation where possible (e.g., walking or biking).

STEO is providing parents with the option of opting out of student transportation by using the following form:

As students may be in close contact with others for prolonged periods of time while on the bus, and be sharing buses with students that are outside their cohorts and possibly school, STEO is highly recommending that students in Kindergarten to Grade 3 wear non-medical face coverings/masks while traveling on school vehicles. Students in Grades 4 and up are required to wear face coverings on school vehicles, as per the provincial school reopening guidelines.

Further information regarding transportation is available in  the STEO COVID-19 Transportation Response Plan and their website  (

Schools will be establishing drop-off and pick-up procedures for students that will be taking the bus and those that will be dropped off by parents. These procedures will be communicated by each school as needed.  


Continue to Section 4: The Learning Environment

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