In-School and Remote Learning News and Information
Frequently Asked Questions for 2021-2022 School Year
Please find below frequently asked questions (FAQs) related to NNDSB's operational procedure for the 2021-2022 school year. Many of the answers contained below are pulled from the Ministry of Education's COVID-19: Health, safety and operational guidance for schools (2021-2022). Others have been answered with consultation from provincial and local health officials. We will continue to update these questions as new information becomes available and/or circumstances in our local community or district change. This means answers may change over time.
The first day of school for students was Tuesday, September 7, 2021.
The decision to stay with the octomester was shared with all NNDSB families on May 28, 2021. See Letter to Families: September 2021 Decision. NNDSB believes this decision is still the safest possible option and is consistent with the Ministry's direction. In secondary schools, boards were asked to adopt secondary timetabling methods that emphasize the cohorting of students as much as possible and to limit the number of student-to-student contacts. Given our experience in the Octomester system from last school year, we made the decision to start the school year with this model; a model that is familiar to both students, families, and staff. This decision has been met with approval from the Ministry of Education.
The decision was communicated in spring to ensure families had the clearest picture of what in-school learning would look like when they were making their decision to register for either virtual learning or in-school learning. A vast majority of families have chosen to return their students to school with this information in hand. Making a change now without significant consultation would not be fair to those families.
NNDSB has seen a positive impact on student achievement under this model. The octomester is very similar to the summer school model that has continued to work for some time. Secondary school student achievement data from the 2020/2021 years shows that the median mark for all students in all grades was 79%, as compared to the average of the previous three years of 77% similarly. The pass rate for all courses was 94.8%. The rolling average for the previous three years average of 94.6%. Student achievement was consistent with the semester model.
There is no doubt that COVID-19 has seen an increase in student stress, worry or anxiety across Ontario. NNDSB has been unable to find empirical data that compares the various models to suggest changing to a different model will reduce these stresses. Many of the same challenges of octomester were evident in students using quadmester including, complaints that the compressed quadmester timetable while trying to complete two courses increased stress. In some quadmester models, week-long gaps between classes in a subject also were a cause for concern. In conversation with our union partners, continuing with the octomester system was preferred. In many cases, principals noted that some of our most vulnerable students saw better outcomes as students were better able to develop relationships with teachers and peers and focus on one course at a time.
Some boards are using the adapted semester model, which has students taking two courses for a week at a time and then no contact with those teachers for a week. In addition, it sees students coming into contact with different cohorts within four days. Increasing the risk and the likelihood of a greater number of students being sent home to self-isolate should there be a positive case of COVID-19.
We remain optimistic about the role of vaccines in leading the way back to a more “normal” school year and we feel another strength to the octomester model is its ability to adapt to the changes in the requirements issued by the province regarding the return to school. Recent vaccination numbers are encouraging and these data will be a key part of future decisions on school operations. It is important to note that not all staff and visitors will be vaccinated. The policy allows for people to be frequently tested rather than vaccinated. At this time there is no requirement for students to be vaccinated. There will be a mixing of vaccinated and unvaccinated students and as a result, cohorting as much as possible is still requested by the ministry.
We recognize that adaptive school schedules can be challenging for students and there is no “one size fits all” model. We are hopeful that we will be able to return to a more normalized model as soon as possible. Families with concerns for their student's academic progress or well-being should discuss this issue with school staff to ensure that additional support can be provided where needed.
NNDSB's octomester dates are:
Tuesday, Sept. 7 - Friday, Oct. 8
Tuesday, Oct. 12 - Friday, Nov. 12
Monday, Nov. 15 - Friday, Dec. 10
Monday, Dec. 13 - Thursday, Jan. 27
Monday, Jan. 31 - Friday, March 4
Monday, March 7 - Thursday, April 14
Tuesday, April 19 - Friday, May 20
Tuesday, May 24 - Thursday, June 29
Shared materials are important for learning (for example, toys for imaginative play in kindergarten, manipulatives for math, computers and other tech materials, books, art supplies, indoor physical education equipment and shared outdoor equipment). The use of shared materials is permitted. The risk associated with transmission with shared objects is low. The focus should be on regular hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette to reduce the risk of infection related to shared equipment, particularly when regular cleaning of shared objects is not feasible.
Shared materials outdoors, including playground equipment, during recess are permitted, with appropriate hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette used by staff and students before and after recess.
Shared spaces, Lockers and Cubbies
Shared homerooms, libraries (for group and individual use, for example, drop-in study time, etc.) and computer/technology labs, are permitted. Use of lockers/cubbies is permitted. When different cohorts interact in shared indoor spaces, masking and as much distancing as possible should be maintained between cohorts.
Water fountains and bottle filling stations can be used and are recommended to be cleaned and disinfected daily, or more often if needed. Fill water bottles rather than drinking directly from the mouthpiece of water fountains. Post signs near water fountains emphasizing public health measures.
In the near future the NNDSB will authorize field trips. In the meantime, consider delaying field trips and outdoor stays at the start of the school year until school procedures are well established. Virtual field trips can also be considered. Outdoor field trips are preferred over indoor field trips at this time.
- Day trips and overnight stays are permitted and should follow the relevant provincial requirements under the Reopening Ontario Act. For day and overnight trips, anyone entering the area must be screened upon arrival and the pick-up/drop-off of students should happen outside of the area or within a designated and isolated area. For the duration of the trip, students should remain in their class cohorts or smaller groupings of their class cohort. It is preferable that students remain with students within their class cohort during transportation and for the duration of the visit.
- To facilitate contact tracing, keep accurate records of all individuals entering the program setting which include name, contact information, time of arrival/departure and screening completion.
- Staggering arrival and departure times is recommended to support cohorting and physical distancing measures.
- Operating programs in consistent cohorts (with assigned staff members) who stay together is recommended throughout the duration of the program.
For students enrolled in cooperative education courses, in-person community placements can be arranged in alignment with the relevant provincial requirements under the Reopening Ontario Act, the direction and recommendations of the local health unit, and with the safety and curriculum requirements of the cooperative education curriculum. If in-person placements are not possible, students should be offered virtual placements. In the event that public health guidance or direction changes during a placement and the student cannot complete their co-op placement in-person or virtually, educators should work with the student to modify their co-op learning plans that allow the student to achieve the curriculum expectations and earn the credit(s).
Music programs are only permitted in areas with adequate ventilation requirements have been met. (Read ventilation section for requirements).
- Singing and the use of wind instruments will be permitted. Use of wind instruments is permitted indoors within a cohort if a minimum distance of two metres or more can be maintained. As much distance as possible should be encouraged and use of large, well-ventilated spaces should be prioritized.
- Use of wind instruments is permitted outdoors in mixed cohorts with distancing encouraged.
- Singing is permitted indoors. Masking is encouraged but not required for singing indoors if a minimum distance of two metres can be maintained between cohorts and as much distancing as possible maintained within a cohort.
- If shared, proper sanitization of wind instruments should occur between use.
Health and Physical Education
In elementary and secondary health and physical education courses, the use of gymnasiums, swimming pools, change rooms, weight rooms, indoor physical education equipment and shared outdoor equipment are permitted with distancing.
High and low-contact activities are permitted indoors and outdoors as follows:
- Masking is not required when playing high or low contact activities outdoors.
- Masking is encouraged for indoor sports and activities where they can be worn safely.
- Windows should be opened, when possible, to increase air flow.
- It is not advisable to wear a mask during intense cardiovascular activities. At this time, it is recommended that high intensity activities are held outdoors where physical distancing is possible. Alternatively in well ventilated areas indoors, cardiovascular activity can be considered if there is adequate physical distancing of two metres or more.
- Students should practice hand hygiene before and after participating in physical activity and equipment uses. The risk associated with transmission with shared objects is low therefore the focus should be on regular hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette to reduce the risk of infection related to shared equipment especially when the cleaning of shared objects is not feasible.
- The whole gym itself does not need to be cleaned after each cohort, unless visibly dirty, but high-touch surfaces should be cleaned twice daily or more often as required.
- Playground structures do not need to be cleaned or disinfected between uses. Hand hygiene should be practiced before and after using playground equipment.
Examples of high contact sports include basketball, football, hockey, lacrosse, rugby, soccer and wrestling
Examples of low contact sports include badminton, curling, gymnastics, swimming, track and field, running and volleyball.
For the 2021-22 school year, regular EQAO assessments for Grades 3 and 6 will resume in the new digital format for math, reading and writing. Students in Grade 9 math will write the Grade 9 math digital adaptive assessment and the results of the assessment may count towards up to 10% of the student’s final mark. EQAO assessments are required to be done in-person at the school. Students learning remotely can choose to participate in the EQAO testing. Assessments can be completed in-person at the discretion of the school board, as long as all applicable health and safety measures can be met.
Literacy and Community Involvement Graduation Requirements
The literacy graduation requirement is waived for students graduating in the 2021- 22 school year. The literacy graduation requirement will be restored for students graduating in the 2022-23 school year. Students in Grades 10 and 11 and non- graduating students, including those who are learning remotely, are required to work towards the literacy graduation requirement, through participation in the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT), adjudication or the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Course (OSSLC).
The community involvement graduation requirement has been reduced from 40 hours to a minimum of 20 hours of community involvement activities for students graduating in the 2021-22 school year. Temporary changes to reduce barriers students may face to earn their community involvement hours and provide greater flexibility in how they earn their hours will continue for the 2021-22 school year. The community involvement graduation requirement of 40 hours will be restored in 2022-23 and students working towards their OSSD should be supported to meet these requirements in time for their graduating year.
Adult and Continuing Education
Delivery options for programs offered by through Adult and Continuing Education such as international and Indigenous languages, adult credit as well as literacy and numeracy, may vary in approach, in alignment with this return to school direction, to include remote and in-person models while taking into account the health and safety of students
Student mental health and well-being should be considered a top priority, as good mental health is fundamental to a student’s ability to learn and to succeed at school and in life. Schools are expected to adopt the NNDSB mental health initiatives. In addition, School Mental Health Ontario, is providing schools with comprehensive back to school resources.
Intramural Clubs and Sports
Clubs, activities, sports teams, bands (without wind instruments), and extracurricular activities are permitted. Cohorts may interact outdoors with physical distancing encouraged, and indoors with masking and appropriate physical distancing. Direction in sections on protective strategies and specific academic programs and requirements apply to all extra-curricular activities.
Inter-school sports and activities
Inter-school sports and activities are permitted. Please see the protocol. It is our intention to take part in OFSSA programming.
Before and After School Programs
Schools, childcare operators and authorized recreation providers in schools should follow the guidance for before and after school programs and collaborate to ensure that student lists and information are maintained and readily available to be provided to public health for contact tracing purposes in accordance with all applicable legislation, including the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
Community Use of Schools
NNDSB has not yet authorized the resumption of Community use permits.
Once authorized by NNDSB, Community Use of Schools is permitted provided activities are aligned with public health guidance and direction. NNDSB will work with the NBPSDHU to develop a plan. Once the NNDSB has authorized the resumption of community use of schools all programs should ensure that they are complying with the applicable provincial requirements under the Reopening Act.
Community organizations wishing to use school facilities must work with their local PHUs to develop a plan for community access to school property and facilities. Any visitors to a school are required to self-screen and to wear a mask while on school premises. At the advice of the local public health unit, the NNDSB may be asked to restrict community access.
Community groups must maintain daily student/visitor lists and contact information. This should be readily available to be provided to public health for contact tracing purposes in accordance with all applicable legislation, including the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
Extra-curricular Media Protocol
- Media will be permitted at school extra-curricular events both indoors and outdoors, to provide the opportunity to broadcast events and results to the community.
- The co-terminus boards have developed a media pass that must be displayed to gain entry to an event.
- To obtain a pass, members of the media must show proof of being fully vaccinated.
- Media contacts must register prior to the event.
- Upon arrival to the game/event, member of the media verifies self-screening and signs in visitor log (as per usual process).
Health and safety protocols
Update Aug. 31, 2021: Teachers must verify with their students that they have completed their screening before arriving at school. This could be managed during student attendance when students enter class. We recognize this may be more challenging for our youngest students, but we trust that educators will do their best to complete the self-screening confirmations. Please ensure that all essential visitors have self-screened using the COVID-19 School and Childcare Screening Tool.
All staff and students must self-screen every day before attending school. Schools should provide parents with reminders instructions to use the School Screening tool daily. https://covid-19.ontario.ca/school-screening/.
A hardcopy of this tool (https://covid-19.ontario.ca/covid19-cms-assets/2021-06/COVID-19_printable%20school%20and%20child%20care%20screening_ENG.pdf) must be provided to families enabling them to perform daily screening of their children before arriving at school in absence of internet connectivity.
Self-assessment tools should be made available to staff to ensure awareness of possible symptoms of COVID-19.
The province will continue to provide a screening tool for use by all school boards and may update this throughout the school year. Local public health units may designate a commensurate or more restrictive screening tool for local use. All staff and students who are experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19 as identified in the screening tool, must not attend school and should follow the guidance provided in the screening tool, which may include seeking appropriate medical attention as required, and/or getting tested for COVID-19
- The ministry may direct schools to perform daily on-site confirmation of self-screening, such as during a period of potential higher transmission (for example, after a holiday period). Schools are expected to continue to use the process implemented in the 2020-2021 school year to implement on-site confirmation of self-screening of individuals prior to or upon their arrival at school, if directed to do so.
- If the ministry directs schools to perform daily on-site confirmation of self-screening students, staff, and visitors will need to provide daily confirmation that they have self-screened. All teachers will confirm that students have self-screened during daily attendance. Staff will continue to attest to self-screening daily using the eBase form on the Health and Safety. The principal and those designated within the school will be responsible for ensuring all students, staff and visitors have completed and passed their daily COVID-19 self-screen.
Any staff, student, or visitor that does not pass the screening procedures should not attend school.
Students in Grades 1 to 12 are required to wear properly fitted, non-medical or cloth masks indoors in school, including in hallways and during classes, as well as on school vehicles. Masks may be temporarily removed indoors for the consumption of food and drink (see Cafeteria Use and Lunch protocols for more detail). When masks are removed, students should maintain a minimum distance of two metres between cohorts and as much distancing as possible within a cohort. Students are not required to wear masks outdoors, but distancing should be encouraged between cohorts as much as possible.
Students may be able to remove their masks for physical activity indoors (read health and physical education), but only when it is safe to do so.
Students are not required to wear masks outdoors, but distancing should be encouraged between cohorts as much as possible.
Masks/face coverings should be changed when they are damp, dirty or damaged. Medical masks are not recommended to be reused and they are to be disposed of when crumpled, moist or visually contaminated. More information about masks/face coverings is available on the NBPSDHU’s Face Coverings website.
Some students, staff and visitors will be exempt from wearing masks in NNDSB schools, buildings and while riding on school buses. We expect all staff and students to be respectful of those who wear masks and those who cannot wear a mask for medical and other reasons for which an exemption applies.
Students, parents and staff must expect that there will be individuals in the school, building, or bus who will not be wearing masks because they qualify for an exemption. In such cases, appropriate measures such as face shields, greater physical distancing, clear barriers and/or study carrels, enhanced cleaning, and other infection prevention and control measures will need to be considered. If increased distancing is employed, caution must be exercised so as not to stigmatize the student. The importance of increased distancing may depend upon current epidemiology and vulnerability (e.g., immune issues, etc.) of the staff/student or proximate staff/students.
Accommodations require consideration of the human rights needs of the person requesting an exemption, as well as medical and health and safety needs of others. Protecting students/families and staff who are at high risk for COVID-19 should be considered in relation to assessing the appropriateness and nature of a mask exemption. It is expected that all reasonable steps and considerations will be taken before a student is not permitted to attend school in person, or an employee is not permitted to attend work in person.
The following individuals may be exempt from wearing masks:
- Individuals with a medical condition/disability that make it difficult to wear a mask. This can include:
- Medical condition, mental health condition, cognitive condition or disability that prevents wearing a mask OR
- Medical condition that makes it difficult to breathe.
- People who require accommodation in accordance with the Ontario Human Rights Code.
Principals/Managers should inquire and consider the reasons for the request. For example, is the request being made based on protected grounds of discrimination such as religion or disability? This request may need further assessment by the Principal/Manager that may not be able to be undertaken quickly. In such cases, Principals/Managers should consult with their Superintendent first.
If students, staff and visitors are able to wear masks but choose not to, they do not qualify for a mask exemption and in-person attendance at school or the workplace without a mask will not be allowed.
Staff, visitors, parents and students who seek an exemption based on one of the above noted categories must inform the school Principal/Manager as soon as possible of the request and exemption category, so that the request and possible alternative arrangements may be considered. When dealing with a mask exemption request, Principals should use the NNDSB “Student Exemption of Face Coverings Form” to acknowledge the request and document approval or denial of the request.
The parent/guardian will be required to provide a physician’s note authorizing the exemption of wearing a face mask where the documentation does not already exist at the school (including related special education identification information).
For requests for exemption due to inability to breathe: Principals/Managers should make reasonable inquiries regarding this request. Are there asthma-related issues? Could a different type of mask be suitable (disposable vs. non disposable, cloth masks or homemade masks)? Although not a substitute for a mask, a face shield may be an option. Face shields provide limited protection but may be better than no mask at all.
NNDSB will continue to provide school staff and school bus drivers, school bus monitors and student aides with required personal protective equipment (PPE), including medical masks (surgical/procedural), eye protection and other PPE based on their specific role/job functions (for example, gloves, gowns).
Medical masks are required to be worn by school staff and visitors indoors in school, including in hallways and during classes. Staff must wear masks outdoors when they are within 6ft of other students/staff in order to help decrease the chances of staff members having a high-risk COVID-19 exposure.
Staff must maintain at least two metres distance when consuming food/drinks. Reasonable exceptions to the requirement for staff to wear masks will apply.
Eye protection (face shields or goggles) must be worn by staff who work with students not wearing masks, such as Kindergarten teachers and Early Childhood Educators. Teachers who work with students wearing masks do not need to wear eye protection. Other staff may be directed to wear eye protection as per occupational health and safety requirements.
Eye protection for school bus drivers should not interfere with the safe operation of vehicles and is intended to protect drivers during close contact with students, such as during boarding and exiting.
Special Education Considerations
Where necessary for faces to be seen for lip reading to support students who are deaf or hard of hearing, masks with clear sections may be appropriate. Where staff are required to perform an Aerosol Generating Medical Procedure (AGMP) or required to be in the same room when an AGMP is being performed, N95 respirators (fit tested) will be provided.
School boards are expected to continue optimizing air quality in classrooms and learning environments through improving ventilation and/or filtration. This is a key element in the multiple protective strategies to support healthy and safe learning environments for students and staff.
For schools with full mechanical ventilation, school boards are expected to:
- use the highest-grade filters possible, preferably MERV 13 filters
- undertake frequent filter changes through the school year
- operate ventilation systems two hours or more before and after school occupancy
- calibrate HVAC systems for maximum air flow and increased fresh air intake
This guidance also applies to schools with mechanical ventilation for parts of schools, such as additions.
For schools or parts of schools without mechanical ventilation, school boards are expected to place standalone high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter units in all classrooms, learning environments and shared spaces including gyms, libraries, lunchrooms, childcare spaces, administrative spaces and portables. All Kindergarten classrooms, even those in schools operating mechanical ventilation systems, will have a HEPA filter unit placed in their classroom as an extra preventative measure to account for kindergarten students not wearing masks. HEPA filter units ensure particle filtration of air and improve air exchange. These units must be sized for the classroom or learning environment that is being used. In larger classrooms and learning environments, more than one HEPA unit may be required. In addition, school boards are encouraged to support outdoor education where possible and open windows where this augments ventilation for classrooms and learning environments.
Detailed school guidance and checklists regarding ventilation can be found here:
Mandatory Vaccination: Non-Staff Procedure
School vehicles can operate at full capacity. Vehicles for elementary students should reduce capacity where possible. The seat directly behind the driver in school buses should remain empty to maintain physical distance between the driver and students. This distancing measure may not be applicable to other vehicle types such as vans or cars. Where school vehicles are able to operate at less than full capacity, students should be seated in a manner that maximizes physical distancing. Active forms of travel (for example, walking and cycling) are encouraged to ease pressure on transportation demand. Windows should be opened when feasible to increase ventilation.
**Masks are required
The use of non-medical masks for students in Grades JK to 12 is required on school vehicles. Students in kindergarten should be directed to wear a mask on school transportation in accordance with directions received from the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit. However, “Children under the age of five years either by birth age or mental development who refuse to wear a face covering and cannot be persuaded to do so should be exempt from wearing masks”.
Exceptions should be made for students with medical conditions or special needs that prevent masking.
Students should be assigned seats and a record of the seating plan should be kept assisting with contact tracing in the case of a student or driver contracting COVID-19. Students who live in the same household or are in the same classroom cohort should be seated together where possible.
School vehicles should follow an enhanced cleaning protocol of disinfecting high-touch surfaces (for example, handrails, seatbacks) at least twice daily.
Letter to Families - Weekly update for Oct. 1 - Oct. 1, 2021
Letter to Families - Response to threat at Chippewa Intermediate and Secondary School - Sept. 27, 2021
Letter to Families - Truth and Reconciliation Week - Sept. 27, 2021
Letter to Families - Weekly update for Sept. 24 - Sept. 24, 2021
Letter to Families - Weekly update for Sept. 17 - Sept. 17, 2021
Letter to Families - Update on inter-school extra-curricular activities - Sept. 10, 2021
Letter to Families - Weekly updates to continue - Sept. 10, 2021
Letter to Families - NNDSB remains committed to effective privacy and information management - Sept. 7, 2021
Letter to Families - Last of four weekly updates leading up to the start of a new school year - Sept. 2, 2021
Letter to Families - NNDSB's Director of Education and Chair of the Board pen a letter as we begin the new school year - Sept. 1, 2021
Letter to Families - Third of four weekly updates leading up to the start of a new school year - Aug. 26, 2021
Letter to Families - Second of four weekly updates leading up to the start of a new school year - Aug. 19, 2021
Letter to Families - Weekly updates ahead of new school year - Aug. 12. 2021
Letter to Families - Guidance for September planning - Aug. 4, 2021
- Letter to families: Statement and resources regarding residential schools - June 29, 2021
- Letter to families: Director's year-end message to NNDSB families - June 25, 2021
- Letter to families: Premier announces remote learning to continue - June 2, 2021
- Letter to families: Youth COVID-19 vaccination information - May 28, 2021
- Letter to families: September 2021 decision for families - May 28, 2021
- Letter to families: Ontario's Premier announces schools to remain closed to in-person learning - May 20, 2021
- Letter to families: Information regarding Ontario Government announcement - May 13, 2021
- Letter to families: Looking ahead to next school year - May 6, 2021
- Letter to families: Past Octomester's secondary report cards available through Edsby - April 29, 2021
- Letter to families: Invitation to contribute to thank you campaign - April 26, 2021
- Letter to Ontario families from the Minister of Education - April 25, 2021
- Letter to families from the Director of Education regarding important information for after Spring Break - April 15, 2021
- Letter to families: NNDSB's Parent Involvement Committee hosting free webinars on student well-being - April 14, 2021
- Letter to Families: Ontario government moves schools to remote learning after spring break - April 12, 2021
- Letter to families: Asymptomatic COVID-19 testing available during spring break - April 12, 2021
- Letter to families: Access to COVID-19 testing during Spring Break - April 9, 2021
- Letter to families: Health advice for the spring break - April 8, 2021
- Letter to families: Schools to remain open for in-person learning during provincial stay-at-home order - April 7, 2021
- Letter to families: NNDSB masks free of nanoform graphene - April 7, 2021
- Students Who Make a Difference: IDERD event - March 18, 2021
- Ministry changes to community involvement policy - March 16, 2021