September 2021

Operational Guidance for Schools

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School Routines & Processes

The effective daily operations of a school contribute to a safe school year for our students. The processes and policies below will all be implemented to continue as many of the normal operations of a school day while implementing effective operational controls that help prevent spread of the COVID-19. All schools in the HDSB will have a school-based implementation team to support these processes and ensure all staff and families are kept informed of these operational details on a school by school basis.

Family Responsibilities

  • Parents/guardians (and students 18+) must complete the Government of Ontario's online COVID-19 School Screening Tool for each child prior to attending school each day.

  • Keep your child at home if they are sick; perform a daily self-assessment for each child.

  • Keep all children home if anyone in the household has symptoms of COVID-19 and follow public health direction.

  • Prevent the Spread by following preventative measures outside of school (e.g., physical distancing, hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene).

Student Belongings

  • Essential daily items only (e.g., backpack, clothing, sun protection, water bottles, food).

  • For parents/guardians needing to drop off essential items, schools will communicate a drop-off location and process. Parents are not to enter the building.

School Entry/Exit

  • Parents may only enter the building with a scheduled appointment and will be provided protocols for entry.

  • Schools will provide further guidance on student entry/exit in their welcome messaging (e.g., designated entrance for your child).

  • Sanitizing stations have been placed at each designated entrance for use by students and essential visitors on entry and exit.

Student Lates/Appointments

  • If a student must leave school before dismissal, the parent/guardian is to contact the school (Attendance line or school phone) to register the appointment.

  • For late arrivals, parents/guardians should notify the school via SchoolMessenger, phone or come to the school with your child(ren).

  • Schools will communicate processes for late students and appointments during the school day requiring students to leave early.

School Hours/Access and Visitors

  • Schools will set up scheduled appointments with visitors (e.g., parent/guardian meeting, food programs, etc.).

  • To the extent possible, meetings with school staff and others should occur over the phone or virtually.

  • Where face-to-face meetings are scheduled by appointment, screening will be required and medical masks must be worn (these will be available at the school).

  • Volunteers in classrooms are paused.

Food, Water and Food Programs

  • Students should bring a refillable water bottle.

  • Water bottles, food and utensils may not be shared.

  • Elementary students who go home for lunch will follow school processes.

  • Secondary students may leave for lunch.

  • Food programs will resume following Public Health, Ministry and HDSB protocols.


Before and After School Child Care Programs

  • These programs will operate in all our elementary schools at the discretion of the Child Care operator.

  • Before and After school cohorts will be matched to school cohorts where possible.

  • All cleaning will meet or exceed our school-based standards as defined by the Ministry of Education’s Guidelines for Child Care Operators.

  • Registration and fee information is available by contacting the designated Child Care provider for each school; contact information is available at Before and After School Care Information.

School Councils and Council Elections

  • Given the restrictions in meeting in-person, schools will continue to engage School Councils through virtual meeting (i.e., Google Meet) for September.

  • The election of members of School Councils shall be held in the first 30 days of the school year.

  • The election of parents/guardians must be by secret ballot. A Google Form will be set up for electronic anonymous (e.g., does not collect email address) voting in real time.

Emergency Procedures

Schools will develop processes to adhere to social distancing and cohorts in practicing the following:

    • Fire Drills

    • Hold and Secure

    • Lockdown

    • School Evacuation

    • Bomb Threat

Instruction and Co-curriculars

Learning and instruction is at the core of what we do. This year we will apply the Ministry of Education direction to create days that maximize face-to-face instruction in the most engaging and student focused ways possible. Our students with special education needs will all have IEPs developed with their learning needs considered at this unique time.

Glossary of Terms

  • Virtual Secondary School (VSS): School for secondary students who opted for learning fully online. Students participate in 300-minutes of scheduled learning (two classes per day of 150 minutes) 5 days a week. Students will follow the Modified Semester Model.

  • In-person learning: School for students who opted to learn fully in-person at their designated school and physically attend school. Students participate in a scheduled 300-minute day at their school five days per week.

  • Remote learning: Remote learning occurs online either synchronously (real-time) or asynchronously. Remote learning will also be available all day for elementary or secondary students who temporarily cannot attend school in-person if they are required to self-isolate or are ill but still able to participate in their learning.

Learning Model Selection

  • Students will start the school year in one of the two learning models below as indicated by parents/guardians/students 18+ in June 2021:

    • In-Person Learning or

    • Remote Learning

  • The following dates apply for transferring between learning models:

    • Elementary Model Change Form: Apply September 9 - 16, 2021 (effective October 12, 2021)

    • Secondary: A process for Semester 2 will be communicated at a later date (effective February 7, 2022).


  • Elementary Learning Model Change Request Form will be sent to families on Sept. 9, 2021

Students with Special Education Needs

  • Schools will support students with significant special education or mental health needs who may require additional transition time prior to the start of the school year.

  • Changes in the school environment and/or remote learning needs will be considered when reviewing and updating Individual Education Plans (IEPs) and to ensure continued access to assistive technology.

  • Students may be supported by specialized educators (e.g., SERT, EA) within their classroom and/or withdrawn in small groups for targeted instruction.

  • Students in self-contained programs will attend school for the full day, five days per week and may be integrated into a regular class, according to their IEP goals and/or placement.

Instructional Models - September

In-Person Learning Model

  • Elementary school students in Kindergarten through Grade 8 will attend school five days per week, with 300 minutes of instruction per day, remaining in one cohort for the full day.

Remote Learning Model

  • Elementary school students will engage in remote learning five days a week (virtual program delivery) following the school hours of the school of their remote learning class.

  • Students will be expected to log in daily for attendance and participate in synchronous (real-time) and asynchronous learning.

  • Synchronous (real-time) instruction will be in accordance with Program Policy Memorandum 164: Remote Learning.

Grade 1 to 8 Program Considerations

  • Students will be provided with learning recovery and renewal opportunities to support continued growth in overall expectations as they engage in new content, with an emphasis on gap closing in areas of literacy and mathematics.

  • Elementary schools will continue to offer a breadth of program (e.g., music, health and physical education, science and technology, etc.). Rooms may be used by multiple cohorts throughout the day.

  • Student learning opportunities will be informed by Public Health guidelines and Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) measures (e.g., hand and respiratory hygiene, physical distancing, outdoor spaces).

Kindergarten Program Considerations

  • The Kindergarten program will continue to be play and inquiry based. Health and safety protocols will be followed. Kindergarten educators will use small groupings, outdoor space and enhanced cleaning protocols to provide an inquiry and play-based program.

  • Educators will use the outdoor space for learning to allow for greater physical distancing.

  • Many learning materials will be organized in separate containers for individual children. Shared materials are important for learning. The use of shared materials is permitted. The risk associated with shared materials is low and spray bottles with disinfectant, gloves and paper towels will be provided for staff to wipe down any surfaces and materials. Plush items will not be used. Regular hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette will be the focus to reduce risk.

  • Student cubbies will be accessed in small groups.

  • Entry procedures for Kindergarten students will be communicated to families by their individual schools and will include information about entry doors, timing of entry, meeting educators and other site specific information.

  • School teams will use the information that we have provided based on direction from the Ministry of Education and Public Health to develop school based protocols.

Secondary Instructional Model - September

Secondary schools will provide daily learning for the full duration of the school day (five instructional hours).

  • For the Fall semester, school boards have been instructed to structure student timetables with no more than two courses in a day. The HDSB will use the alternating week, referred to as the “Modified Semester Model” (Week 1: Course A/Course B, Week 2: Course C/Course D).

  • Students in the Community Pathway Program will attend school five days a week for the full day.

Students selecting remote learning will follow the Modified Semester Model (Week 1: Course A/Course B, Week 2: Course C/Course D) with the requirements for synchronous (real-time) learning in accordance with Program Policy Memorandum 164: Remote Learning.

Secondary students selecting the remote learning option will be students in the HDSB Virtual Secondary School (VSS). The start and end times for the VSS will be communicated to secondary students selecting this option.

For students in the Community Pathway Program who opt for remote learning, their IEP will be revised as appropriate. The programming will look different for each student and will include synchronous (real-time) and asynchronous delivery and interactions, and will include resources and supports as needed.

Secondary Regional Programming, CO-OP, OYAP and SHSM

  • Co-op placements will be offered virtually and in-person. In-person community placements can take place if aligned with the requirements of the Reopening Ontario Act, the recommendations of Public Health and with the safety and curriculum requirements of the Cooperative Education curriculum.

  • Cooperative education remains a key component of Specialist High Skills Majors, the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program and Dual Credit Programs.

Secondary Program Considerations

  • Students will continue to earn compulsory credits required for the Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD), as well as providing access to types of elective courses that support all post-secondary pathway destinations.

  • Students will be provided with recovery and renewal learning opportunities to support continued growth in overall expectations for each course.

  • Secondary schools will continue to offer courses in all elective program areas
    (e.g., music, health and physical education, technological education, etc.)

  • Student learning opportunities will be informed by Ministry and Public Health guidelines (e.g., physical distancing, outdoor spaces, cleaning protocols) and the instructional strategies used in all courses will reflect these health requirements.

EQAO and Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test (OSSLT)

All students in Grade 3 and 6 attending in-person learning will participate in the online EQAO math, reading, and writing assessments in 2021-2022. EQAO assessments are required to be done in-person at the school.

All students enrolled in Grade 9 math attending learning in-person will write the Grade 9 math assessment. Results of this assessment may count towards up to 10% of the student’s final mark.

Students graduating in the 2021-2022 school year are exempted from the literacy graduation requirement.

The literacy graduation requirement will be restored for students graduating in the 2022-2023 school year. Students in Grade 10 and 11 and non-graduating students, including those who are learning remotely, are required to work towards the literacy graduation requirement, through participating in the OSSLT, adjudication or the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Course (OSSLC).

While Grade 10 and 11 and non-graduating students are encouraged to take the OSSLT, to provide maximum flexibility for students to acquire the literacy graduation requirement, particularly for students who may not be able to enter a school building, they can be enrolled in the OSSLC or be provided with an adjudication without having an unsuccessful attempt at the OSSLT.

EQAO will provide a Fall 2021 administration of the OSSLT in addition to a Spring 2022 administration.

For elementary and secondary EQAO assessments, including the OSSLT, students learning remotely can choose to participate in the EQAO assessments in-person. Schools will communicate processes for this option closer to the assessment dates.

Learning & Instructional Platforms

  • Elementary students will be part of an online Google Classroom.

  • Elementary teachers will provide information regarding the Google Classroom at the start of the school year and when switching learning models (i.e., new educators).

  • Secondary students and staff will use the online Brightspace Learning Management System.

  • Students are automatically added to their courses and can login via using their HDSB email and network password.

  • A HDSB Tech Tips website has been created to support all students and families in using technology and providing solutions to common technical issues, questions or ways to reach out to receive Technical Support.

  • Families are encouraged to review the Technology and You section on the HDSB website.

Overall wellness is important. Consider the following to support your child with remote learning.

  • All manufacturers provide product safety guidelines, warnings and suggestions for use. Be sure to read the fineprint.

  • Avoid direct contact of your devices (laptops, iPads, tablets) to your body and/or bare skin.

  • Give your eyes a rest throughout the day - a rest for your eyes can be as simple as looking away from the screen for short breaks.

  • Give your body a break and take time away from your device.

  • Step away from your screen and have some social interaction with others.

  • Numerous resources are available to all schools to support digital citizenship including the Board's Responsible Use Procedures​ for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) use in schools.​​​​​​​

  • Families are encouraged to review HDSB Internet Safety resources with their child(ren).

“Program Nights”, Welcome and Orientation Parent/Guardian Events

  • Schools will plan and communicate virtual September welcome and information opportunities, given the restrictions for large group events


  • Refer to your school communication

Excursions/Day Field Trips

  • In-school virtual and off-site Field Trips may be considered

  • Walking Outdoor Experiential learning opportunities that leave school property (e.g., activities in the local community, parks and trails) while maintaining cohorting, safety and physical distancing may continue

  • Curricular and co-curricular excursions within Ontario may be considered

  • Excursions outside Ontario will not be permitted until further notice


  • September Start Up forms will be sent electronically from your school

Inter-School Athletics/Co-curriculars

  • Co-curricular face-to-face activities will resume and adhere to the parameters of the Ministry and Public Health guidance

Volunteer Hour Requirement for Graduation

  • In 2021-2022, the required number of hours for community involvement activities will be reduced from 40 to a minimum of 20 hours for graduating students.

  • The following activities will be deemed eligible for all secondary students for their community involvement activities in the 2021-2022 school year:

    • Activities that take place during the time allotted for the instructional program on a school day (e.g., walking a younger neighbour or sibling to and from school, helping younger siblings with their homework)

    • Activities that include up to 10 hours of paid work, with the requirement to complete a reflection exercise indicating how their work contributed to service for others (e.g., grocery work during the pandemic)

    • Activities that consist of duties normally performed in the home (e.g., students could help an elderly relative with errands, provide after-school care for a sibling)

  • The community involvement graduation requirement of 40 hours will be restored in 2022-2023 and students working towards their OSSD should be supported to meet these graduation requirements in time for their graduating year.

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