Message from the Director: Return to Class

Message from the Director: Return to Class
Posted on 02/03/2021

February 3, 2021

Dear Staff and Families,

The Minister of Education made an announcement that in-class learning will resume for all schools in the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board (SMCDSB) beginning on Monday, February 8th (note: St. Peter the Apostle Catholic School in Parry Sound, which is part of a northern health unit has been back to school since January 11th). Transportation and child care facilities (including Before and After School programs) will return to pre-Christmas operation. Emergency child care provisions will be discontinued. 


I want to start by congratulating and thanking our students, staff and families for their perseverance and resilience over the past month - so much amazing work was accomplished and for that everyone should be very proud. 


Moving to remote learning after Christmas was challenging for some students and families. In particular, we have been concerned about students who have become disconnected, disengaged and marginalized in the remote learning environment. There have also been concerns related to the mental health and well-being of many in our school communities. We do know that most students do better when they are in class and supported in-person by their educators and peers. We also know that on-line learning at home is incredibly difficult for many families. 


With all of that in mind, we do believe that a return to in-class learning is good news for our school communities. Health and safety must continue to be our top priority and our focus must be returning to school in the safest way possible.  To that end, I would like to draw your attention to some enhanced health and safety measures which will be implemented at SMCDSB. Please note these measures are in addition to the safety measures that have been in place since September such as physical distancing, hand hygiene, enhanced cleaning, etc.

  • The wearing of non-medical masks will be mandatory for all students from JK to Grade 12 in our Board (previously this only applied to Grade 4 to 12).  Any concerns that we had at the beginning of the year regarding the ability and willingness of our youngest learners to wear masks (even for long periods of time) have subsided. We have learned how incredibly adaptable and resilient our students are, and after almost a year in this pandemic, mask-wearing has become commonplace for everyone, including young children. We are encouraging families to send their children with a supply of masks that are comfortable and fit well. We will also have a supply of disposable masks available.
  • All students and staff are strongly encouraged to wear masks outdoors and in particular when a distance of 2 metres cannot be consistently maintained
  • All staff will continue to wear approved Personal Protective Equipment including medical grade masks at all times and eye protection (face shield or safety goggles) when physical distancing can’t be maintained. 
  • Enhanced screening mechanisms will be implemented for all staff and secondary students. We are currently working through an automated process for this new requirement and more details will be communicated prior to school reopening on February 8th. All elementary students must still complete the self-assessment.
  • Congregating before and after school will not be permitted on school premises. Please ensure all students arrive at school on-time and return home promptly at the end of the school day, in particular students who are not in need of accessing transportation. We are relying on our partnership with our families and the cooperation of our students to eliminate before and after school gatherings. 

In addition, the Ministry of Education has announced additional funding for health and safety provisions, improved air quality and technology. Targeted COVID-19 testing may also be a measure which could be used in school communities under the direction and advice of local health units.


I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank the staff who have been attending their schools or board office locations since the Christmas break. Several hundred staff have been going into our buildings to provide in-person instruction for students with special education needs who could not be accommodated through remote learning; ensuring our facilities are clean and operating well; and attending to duties that could not be completed in a home environment. 


We look forward to welcoming the rest of our students and staff back to our school facilities. In addition, please note that we are working on a plan for central staff and further communication will be forthcoming for these employees. 


There is no doubt that our students will benefit from a return to routine, social interaction and in-person learning. Let’s continue to be diligent in following all of the existing and new health and safety measures so that COVID-19 cases continue to decline and we can keep our students in class and pray for all those impacted by this pandemic.


Yours in Faith,



Frances Bagley

Director of Education