Photos: RCDHU staff join members of the RCCDSB leadership team on August 11 for a walkthrough of school preparations at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School in Renfrew.
The health and safety of students and staff is a top priority for the Renfrew County Catholic District School Board (RCCDSB) as schools are prepared for the 2020-21 school year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
All elementary schools will open for conventional in-person teaching for Kindergarten to Grade 8 while the secondary school model will take a quadmester approach to learning when the school year begins for students on September 8.
Two RCCDSB principals, Karen Keels, Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School, Renfrew, and Derek Lennox, St. Joseph High School, Renfrew, are working with Jaime Russell, RCCDSB Health and Safety and Plant Services Officer and Renee Rivard, RCCDSB Community Use of Schools and Plant Services Officer, to prepare their schools for a walkthrough with a team from the Renfrew County District Health Unit (RCDHU).
The measures and protocols being implemented follow return to school direction issued by the Ministry of Education and approved by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health for the safe reopening of schools. The Guide to reopening Ontario’s schools provides information on protection strategies, special education, mental health, academics, transportation, masking, cohorting, and more.
“We have completed a walkthrough with some of our own plant personnel to determine that appropriate safety measures are in place for staff and students. Some of the measures include one-way stairwells, designated in/out doors, physical distancing signage, and plexiglass in key locations such as our office,” shared Lennox.
At Our Lady of Fatima elementary school, staff have been busy setting up classrooms to allow physical distancing of 1 metre between cohorted students, creating alternate recess schedules, posting signage, and planning coordinated procedures (e.g., for handwashing, dismissal, etc.) in order to maintain 2 metre distancing between non-cohorted students.
“We’re working to set up classrooms to meet the recommended physical distancing within the space. There is also a lot of work involved in scheduling to ensure time for things to happen in a staggered way so students can maintain distancing. The plan for each school will need to facilitate the flow of students,” stated Keels.
During the August 11 walkthrough, members of the RCDHU team, Brian Brohart, Healthy Schools Coordinator, Darcy Greer, Public Health Nurse, Infection Prevention and Control, and Michelle Street, Coordinator of Healthy Environments were there to support the RCCDSB leadership team with issues such as student drop-off and pick up, cohorting, respiratory etiquette, disinfection protocols, and more.
“It was a very thorough day and everyone feels well prepared. With three weeks to go before students come back, schools are in very good shape,” said Brohart after touring the primary and secondary ‘model’ schools.
Discussion and feedback from the day will result in a written report that will be used to finetune preparations for the safe reopening of schools across the Board.
“RCCDSB staff and administration have been working tirelessly since the province announced that boards needed to prepare for the different models of re-opening in September. Their hard work and collaboration will ensure that every school is prepared to the standards required by health protocols and ready to provide a safe school environment characterized by warmth, hospitality, good humour and joy,” stated Jaimie Perry, RCCDSB Director of Education.