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Section 4: The Learning Environment

Section 4: The Learning Environment

4.1 Elementary Class Organization

All Kindergarten to Grade 8 students will be cohorted with their assigned class. Schools that typically practice blending of students in French Immersion and Core programming will not blend students during the period of the pandemic in order to reduce the number of direct and indirect contacts that students will have throughout the school day.

As a result of this direction to schools, some reorganization of classes may need to occur. Students will remain in the same classroom throughout the day and teachers who teach multiple classes will travel to the classrooms where their students are located.

4.2 Secondary Class Organization

UCDSB secondary schools will return to full-day instruction for all students in September. However, the day schedule will be different from past years to accommodate cohorting of students.

Secondary schools will adopt a quadmester system that allows for fewer student-to-student and student-to-staff contacts. Students will take two courses at a time over a nine-week period.  Each class will consist of 150 minutes of instruction and will have a lunch break incorporated into the schedule.  Students will take one class in the morning and one class in the afternoon.

Sample Secondary Timetable

4.3 Arrival and Dismissal

Each school will identify an arrival and dismissal procedure for the school. Arrival and dismissal procedures developed by schools will include practices to receive and dismiss students who take the school bus, students who walk or ride a bike to school, and students who are driven by parents.  Procedures will be developed by schools, in collaboration with on-site child care personnel, for the transfer of students from and to on-site child care.

Each school will identify entry procedures making use, where possible, of multiple entry doors to promote physical distancing. Schools may need to stagger the entry and dismissal times in order to maintain physical distancing.  

Schools will also develop their own procedures for receiving students who are late to school as parents will not be able to enter the school to sign students in, as is current practice.

4.4 Health and Safety practices – Hand Hygiene

All staff and students will be expected to sanitize their hands upon each entry into the school building, including re-entering after recess and outdoor time. Students will practice routines for regular hand washing or hand sanitizing. Students will also be explicitly taught respiratory etiquette, including coughing into their elbow, proper disposal of tissues and the proper wearing of face masks. 

4.5 Health and Safety practices - Wearing of Masks or Face Coverings

All staff and students in Grade 4-12 must wear masks or face coverings while inside the school when walking in common areas and where physical distancing in the classroom is not possible. It is highly recommended that students in Kindergarten – Grade 3 also wear masks. Where Grade 3 students are part of a Grade 3 / Grade 4 combined class, any Grade 3 student continues to have the option to wear a mask if their families wish them to do so, but there are no provincial requirements for this to occur.  Staff will work with students to demonstrate how to safely put on, and take off a mask, and how to properly store it when it is not being used. 

Limited exemptions on the requirement for students to wear masks or face coverings can be presented to the school principal by the student’s parent/guardian when the child:

  • has an underlying health condition that prevents them from safely wearing a mask, or;
  • is unable to put on or remove their mask without the assistance of another person, or;
  • is reasonably accommodated by not wearing a mask under the Ontario Human Rights Code, R.S.O. 1990, c.H.19, as amended.

Parents who wish to have their child exempt from wearing a mask must complete the COVID-19 Mask Exemption Form and submit it to the school Principal before the child attends school.

Masks are not necessary in outdoor spaces. Educators will develop routines in their classrooms to prepare students for lining up and walking to the recess yard in a physically distanced manner as masks will not be taken outside to the recess yard.

In accordance with the direction from the Ministry of Educationmedical masks and eye protection (i.e. face shield) will be provided for all teachers and other staff of school boards. All school-based staff will be required to wear masks, with reasonable exceptions for medical conditions.”

Outdoor times like recess can be used as opportunities for students to have breaks from wearing masks within their cohort. Masks may also be removed if a student is at least 2m apart from other students. Students would be required to put the mask back on if they move around the classroom and are close to other students. In addition, students may take off their masks when performing vigorous physical activities and while eating and drinking.

4.6 Personal belongings & storage

Students are to limit the personal belongings that they bring to school. Items that are permitted are a backpack, water bottle, sunscreen, lunch, clothing (e.g. change of clothes for Kindergarten students). Personal belongings will be stored at the students’ desks. Lockers will not be used by staff or students. Hooks and cubbies that are located outside of classrooms will not be used by staff or students. This will be reviewed as the colder weather approaches and heavier clothing and boots become necessary.

Schools will determine if students require indoor shoes to be left at the school. This will be communicated to parents by the individual school.

4.7 Learning materials

Staff will limit the sharing of learning materials between students. Students will be provided with the materials necessary to access the curriculum. Parents may wish to provide additional materials (e.g., pencils, scissors, etc.) for their children. These resources are not to be shared between children. Classroom materials and resources that must be shared will be disinfected between use by students (e.g. computers, headsets, etc.).

4.8 Recess

Schools may develop a staggered recess schedule with designated spaces on the yard for cohorts to play. Students will engage in recess with their specified cohort of classmates.  Schools are encouraged to provide bins of equipment and toys to cohorts for their specific use during outdoor play. Play structures may be used by cohorts of students when physical distancing can be maintained. Handwashing/sanitizing before and after recess will be required.

4.9 Lunch

Elementary schools will develop a lunch schedule that respects contractual obligations for staff. Students will eat in their own classrooms and schools will develop supervision schedules to ensure adequate supervision is in place when students are eating. This may result in changes to the length of time provided for students to eat lunch and the time allocated for play outdoors. 

Hot lunches will not be available in elementary schools during the pandemic.

Cafeterias will be available for food service following all health and safety requirements. Food will be in a ‘grab and go’ format. Schools will ensure that staff and students follow physical distancing, masking and hand hygiene protocols.

Lunch breaks will be staggered to reduce the number of contacts for students throughout the day.  It is the expectation that students will remain with their cohort for the lunch break, when eating their lunch at school.  Secondary students who wish to leave the school during the lunch break will require parental permission to do so and must follow all health and safety measures upon return to the school (hand hygiene, etc.).

4.10 Washrooms

Where possible, schools are to designate specific washrooms to specific cohorts of students. Teachers will also be required to maintain a tracking record to note when a student has left the classroom to use the washroom and when the student has returned. Schools will develop a washroom schedule to limit the number of students accessing washrooms at one time.

4.11 Classroom doors

Where possible, classroom doors should be left open to limit the number of people who are touching the door throughout the school day.

4.12 Use of outdoor space

Educators are encouraged to use outdoor space for teaching and learning as much as possible.

4.13 Communication to Parents/Guardians

Schools will communicate with parents/guardians through electronic means or by phone. The school agenda will not travel between home and school during the pandemic. Parents are encouraged to sign up to use My Family Room ( and to follow the school on the social media platforms used by the school.

Educators will communicate early in the school year to parents about the means and frequency of communication that they should expect from the classroom level.

Information about specific school routines will be shared with parents by the schools.

4.14 Learning Commons

Each school may develop a schedule for the use of the Learning Commons by cohorts of students. Where possible, it is recommended that bins of books be assigned to each cohort and placed in the classrooms. Students may select reading material from the bins for use in the classroom. Books will not travel to and from homes. When books are returned to the Learning Commons, they will remain out of circulation for seven days.

Continue to Section 5: Teaching and Learning

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