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School board encourages students to wear masks at least two weeks after March Break

Elementary students can play and learn together across cohorts, classes and grades, both indoors and outdoors and during lunch and recess
File photo. James Hopkin/SooToday

Schools will be marking a big return to normal when students report to class after March Break, but the board is issuing a cautionary request.

“As we know that many students and staff may choose to continue to wear masks at times, or consistently for the remainder of the school year, we remind all those who enter schools or ADSB facilities to be respectful of personal choices. We also strongly encourage everyone to wear masks for at least the two weeks following March Break, as a precautionary measure,” said Lucia Reece, ADSB director of education in a note sent to parents.  

Effective March 21, in alignment with community masking requirements, masks will no longer be required for students, staff and visitors in schools, school board offices and on student transportation (unless returning from travel outside Canada), states the Algoma District School Board (ADSB) in a message to parents.

The Ministry of Education announced, Wednesday, major changes in regards to health and safety measures for the remainder of the 2021-22 school year.

Based on advice from the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health (OCMOH), and in alignment with community measures, the province is returning schools to a more normal learning environment, while still keeping up protective measures such as rapid tests, ventilation improvements, screening and access to free PPE for students and staff. 

Some students and staff may prefer to continue to wear masks or eye protection, the government to continue to provide free masks to students at schools.

Upon returning from international travel, individuals must wear a mask at all times when in public spaces (including schools and child care), keep a list of all close contacts for the first 14 days in Canada, and self monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19.

Cohorting and physical distancing will no longer be required in schools and assigned seats and cohorting will no longer be required on student transportation. 

That means elementary students can play and learn together across cohorts, classes and grades, both indoors and outdoors and during lunch and recess.

Shared spaces, such as libraries, tech labs, theatres and music rooms can be used without physical distancing. 

Limitations on in-person gatherings and assemblies will also be removed.

That means schools can plan and host in-person events (such as graduation ceremonies and assemblies).

Schools are being encouraged to move to allowing students to congregate, remove cohorting and zoning at recess, allow students to sit in groupings or circles during class and lunch periods. 

Schools will now begin a transition back to elementary sports.

Daily on-site confirmation of screening for all students and staff will no longer be required, however, staff and students are asked to continue to self-screen every day before attending school using either the COVID-19 school and child care screening tool.

The ADSB says it will be issuing a survey the week after March Break to get confirmation from families who wish to have their children remain or opt to access remote/virtual learning in the board’s Hybrid Model for the remainder of the school year. 

The survey will be sent via ADSB’s messaging system and will also be available on the board’s website, so families are asked to check their email immediately after March Break.

Anyone who is sick or has any new or worsening symptoms of illness is to stay home until their symptoms are improving for 24 hours (or 48 hours for nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea) and ought to see a health care provider if needed.

Schools will continue to report absenteeism rates to public health units if they rise to a defined level (approximately 30 per cent above their baseline). All school boards will continue with daily reporting of absenteeism and closures through the absence reporting tool (ART) for posting on until April 14, 2022. 

“It has been quite a journey to this point. I want to extend our deepest appreciation to our staff, students, families and community members who have cooperated and supported our implementation of all the enhanced health and safety measures, to support safer schools and communities, since the start of the pandemic,” ADSB director of education Reece said.

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