March 10, 2022
At a news conference on March 9th, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore announced that effective March 21, 2022 a number of health and safety measures will be lifted in schools throughout our province. He indicated that the decision follows significant improvements to key public health measures across Ontario.
The announcement is yet another sign of a return to normalcy and cause for hope. It is as well cause to acknowledge and celebrate the heroic work of teachers, support staff, system and school leaders, parents and students. As the measures outlined below are lifted, we will continue to proceed with caution and place priority on the health and safety and well-being of our students so as not to diminish the collective good work and progress made to date.
Changes to school COVID-19 health and safety measures will see the masking mandate lifted effective March 21, 2022. In alignment with community masking requirements, masks will no longer be required for students, staff and visitors in schools, board offices, and on school buses. Individuals who choose to continue to wear masks or eye protection are welcome to do so. The exception to the lifting of the masking mandate are individuals returning from international travel who under current federal travel requirements are required to wear a mask in schools for 14 days upon their return.
Cohorting / Distancing
Other changes announced yesterday include the lifting of cohorting and distancing. This means that students can now play and learn together across cohorts, classes and grades, both indoors and outdoors and during lunch and recess. Shared spaces can be used without distancing and programs, such as Best Buddies and Reading Buddies, can return. Limitations on in-person gatherings and assemblies will also be removed, marking a return of school liturgies, assemblies, proms, and graduation ceremonies -- all those things that are such an important part of Catholic school life. This change will come into effect on March 21st.
Confirmation of Daily Screening
Effective March 21st, verification of daily screening will be lifted, however, students and staff are required to continue to screen daily for COVID-19 symptoms using the COVID-19 school and child care screening tool.
Schools will continue to report daily absenteeism and closures to the Ministry of Education until April 14, 2022. This data is used by the Ministry of Education to monitor the impact of COVID-19 on schools and is uploaded daily to the Ontario.ca website. The Ministry will announce whether the collection and reporting of information is required beyond this date.
COVID-19 Case and Contact Management
In other updates, the Ministry of Health has revised its COVID-19 Interim Guidance for Schools to again adapt to broader health trends. Key changes include the lifting of isolation requirements for close community contacts and household contacts. Asymptomatic individuals who are deemed close contacts of a COVID-19 positive case are no longer required to isolate, however, they will be required to self-monitor for 10 days following last exposure and wear a mask in public settings during this time. Asymptomatic household contacts no longer need to isolate if they are 17 years of age or younger and are fully vaccinated, are 18 and older and have already received their booster, or have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days. The COVID-19 school and child care screening tool has been updated to reflect these changes.
International Travel Requirements
Other updates to the screening tool were made earlier to align with recent changes to federal travel requirements. For families who plan to travel over the March Break, please be advised that as of February 28th, unvaccinated children under the age of 12 entering Canada with fully vaccinated parents will no longer have to stay home from school or child care for 14 days. Travellers randomly selected for testing will also no longer be required to quarantine while awaiting their results. Unvaccinated travellers 12 and older will be required to continue to test on arrival and quarantine for 14 days.
While these changes signal good news for students, staff and families, there continues to be a need to proceed with caution to prevent the risk of diminishing the progress that has been made to date. As the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School has done throughout the pandemic, we will continue to work closely with our local public health unit and place priority on the health and safety and well-being of our students and staff.
We know that as we continue to return to a state of much-anticipated normalcy, there will be a need for patience, sensitivity and charity – understanding that the circumstances and experiences of individuals in our schools will vary. Our schools will be “mask friendly,” fully supporting those students and staff who choose to continue to wear masks while respecting the decision of those who choose not to.
Today throughout our school system, we joined as a Catholic Christian community in prayer and offerings of financial support for the people of Ukraine. Through the intercession of our Blessed Mother, we pray for peace and that the people of Ukraine may be granted safety and their country freed of war.
We wish you all of God’s blessings for a safe, relaxing and enjoyable March Break.
Patrick J. Daly
Chairperson of the Board
Director of Education