From the Director: Return to School Information

From the Director: Return to School Information
Posted on 01/14/2022

Dear Families:

On Monday, January 17th students will return to in-person learning. We know that for many students learning at school with their educators and peers is best for their academic, physical, social and mental well-being. Yet, we recognize that many families have concerns about what the school environment will look like as we continue to manage this wave of Omicron. I will take some time in this communication to outline what students and families should expect upon the return to in-person learning. 

Daily COVID-19 Self-Screening

Beginning on Monday, January 17th students must confirm that they have completed the daily self screening by completing a verification form prior to attending school. At the elementary level, parents will receive the daily reminder email, which will contain the verification form as well as a link to the province’s COVID-19 School and Child Care Screening. At the secondary level, students will receive the email directly. We will be monitoring completion of this verification form. 

I cannot stress enough how important it is for families to complete this form daily and strictly adhere to the guidelines provided. With the Omicron variant, this screening tool will act as an important line of defence against the spread of the virus. We simply cannot have students attending school if they have symptoms of COVID-19 and/or if they are a close contact of a person who is exhibiting symptoms.

Please refer to this Return to School (pdf format) document, which provides guidance to help determine screening recommendations and timelines for return to school, if a student, school employee, or essential visitor does not pass the daily COVID-19 School and Child Care Screening as well as the potential impacts on their household members. 

School Closures

Based on the transmissibility of the Omicron variant as well as the isolation requirements for those who have symptoms or have been in close contact with someone who has symptoms, we are anticipating significant staffing challenges in our schools. If we cannot safely operate our schools due to significant staff shortages, we will be required to make last minute decisions to close schools. 

Although we will make every effort to keep schools open, we are asking families to be prepared for the potential of school closures by having emergency childcare provisions in place. It is possible that a decision could be made as late as 6:30 a.m. the morning of. If a school closure is necessary, families will receive an email and an automated voice message. If a school is closed due to staff shortages, where possible, students will participate in remote synchronous learning. 

COVID-19 Case, Contact and Outbreak Management Reporting 

As was announced by the Chief Medical Officer of Health, local health units are no longer tracking, investigating and reporting positive COVID-19 cases in schools. We understand that this may be concerning for some families, but the reality is that the volume of cases and the lack of reliable/confirmatory testing makes it extremely difficult to maintain an accurate and effective reporting system. Our school staff, including principals, do not have the authority to take on medical surveillance, i.e., investigating, confirming and communicating COVID-19 cases. This is a health unit responsibility and not something that we will be undertaking as an education institution.

Beginning on January 24th, as per Ministry of Education directive, we will be posting school-based absenteeism rates on the board website at  

Rapid Antigen Tests

On Monday, January 17th all elementary students will receive a package of rapid antigen tests. We are still waiting for our shipment of rapid antigen tests for secondary students, but these will be distributed as soon as we receive them. These tests are intended to be used only if your child becomes symptomatic. Please continue to follow the COVID-19 School and Child Care Screening tool to determine when your child is able to attend school and when they should stay home. Please see additional information from the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit:


Masks will continue to be provided to students who require them. Schools will be receiving new shipments of three-ply cloth masks in the coming days and these will be distributed to students if requested. 

Vaccination Clinics

The Minister of Education recently announced that schools would be hosting vaccination clinics for students in the 5 to 11 age category. At this time, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit has indicated that they do not have the capacity to run school-based clinics and therefore those interested in vaccinating their child should seek an appointment via a community-based clinic or local pharmacy. 


We would like to provide our families with assurances around the ventilation in our schools. Unlike other school boards in the province of Ontario, all of our schools use mechanical ventilation systems. Last year, we hired an independent, third party to conduct an audit of the ventilation systems in all 50 of our schools. As a result of that audit, we were able to target $14.75 million worth of maintenance and infrastructure renewal projects in order to optimize ventilation and air quality at all of our sites. We use the highest rated air filters (MERV-13) in all schools and board sites. HEPA filters, including our most recent allotment, are placed in priority areas such as Kindergarten classrooms, music rooms, etc. 


Bus operators are facing similar staffing challenges as schools and so there is increased potential for bus cancellations or delays. We encourage families to monitor transportation through the appropriate website daily for delay/cancellation postings:

Simcoe County:

District of Muskoka:

St. Peter the Apostle Catholic School in Parry Sound:

In addition, for the health and safety of everyone, we remind all students to remain in their assigned seats on the bus. 

Remote Learning

As was previously indicated, we cannot accommodate students moving from in-person to virtual learning and currently our virtual classrooms, which were established in September are at capacity. However, we understand the concerns that some families may have about sending their children back to school amongst this current wave of Omicron. In order to address these concerns, we have established a short-term and temporary remote learning option for students at this time. 

Students will continue to be able to access asynchronous learning activities through their Classroom Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) - Brightspace or Google Classroom. There will be live teacher-led remote support for students who are choosing to not attend in-person learning from Tuesday, January 18th to Friday, January 28th.  Students will be able to access a live teacher between 9 and 10:30 a.m. and 1 to 2:30 p.m. daily. Students will be able to access the live Zoom support through a link that will be provided in the Virtual Learning Environment (Brightspace/Google Classroom) of their classroom teacher.  

If your child is not returning to in-person learning at this time, please be sure to connect with your school directly to inform them of your intent.   

We appreciate that this is a lot of information and that this pandemic continues to push everyone’s limits. I have no doubt that everyone is doing the absolute best they can to navigate this situation in the best way possible for their families. I also know that our staff is doing everything they can to provide your child with the best possible Catholic education. Let’s approach the coming weeks, as a community of faith with great patience, care and compassion

Yours in Faith,

Frances Bagley

Director of Education