Vaccinations encouraged, not mandatory — face masks required in class & on buses

Article by Sue Dickens/Trent Hills Now editor

It’s back to school for students attending area catholic schools September 7.

In a message to students, staff and their families, the Director of Education Joan Carragher for the Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington (PVNCC) school board stated,  “We look forward to welcoming back our staff and students in person and to the sights and sounds of busy school playgrounds and hallways.”

The pandemic protocols that will be in place are very similar to those of the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board, as set out by the provincial government.

“While elements of the COVID-19 protocols that have been in place over the past year will continue in schools including daily screening, cohorting, masking in doors and physical distancing, we are excited to see the gradual return to many normal school activities such as school assemblies and masses, extracurricular sports, school clubs, music programs, field trips and overnight excursions,” added the director.

“We will begin the 2021-2022 school year cautiously, but optimistically. While vaccination rates continue to rise in our communities, we know COVID-19 variants will continue to be a concern. That is why it is crucial that we maintain the protective strategies outlined below while slowly reintroducing elements of the normal school year that so enrich the lives of our students and make our Catholic schools safe and welcoming places,” she said.

Here are just some of the details of the return-to-school plan.

Elementary schools will reopen with conventional in-person delivery of learning, with enhanced health and safety protocols.

Secondary schools will reopen with conventional in-person delivery of learning for the full duration of the school day (five instructional hours), with enhanced health and safety protocols.

The board’s St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Virtual School will provide virtual learning for elementary and secondary students. Registration for the virtual school was closed June 1, 2021. Students enrolled in the virtual school will remain in the virtual school for the duration of the school year.

The board says schools will employ multiple protective strategies and a layering of controls to support healthier and safer environments for students and staff. There is not one specific measure that will prevent transmission from occurring in schools, but rather there are multiple structural and individual elements that contribute to making schools healthier spaces and reduce the risk of infection to in-person attendees.

Ensuring activities can happen this school year the board also explains the protocols.

Health and physical education

In elementary and secondary health and physical education courses, the use of gymnasiums, swimming pools, change rooms, weight rooms, indoor physical education equipment and shared outdoor equipment are permitted with distancing. High and low contact activities are permitted indoors and outdoors as follows:

Extra-curricular Activities and Community Use of Schools


Clubs, activities, sport teams, bands and extra-curriculars are permitted. Cohorts may interact outdoors with physical distancing encouraged, and indoors with masking and appropriate physical distancing.

Guidance provided in the protective strategies section above apply to all extra-curricular activities.

Inter-school sport activities

Measures for inter-school sport activities should follow the requirements in the health and physical education section for schools.


All staff and students must self-screen every day before attending school.

Any staff, student or visitor that does not pass the screening procedures should not attend school. The province will continue to provide its school screening tool and may update this throughout the school year.

All staff and students who are experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19, as identified in the screening tool, must not attend school and should follow the guidance provided in the screening tool, which may include seeking appropriate medical attention as required, and/or getting tested for COVID-19.

The Ministry of Education may direct school boards and schools to perform daily on-site confirmation of self-screening, such as during a period of potential higher transmission (for example, after a holiday period). Schools will communicate any new screening obligations directly with families throughout the school year.

Student masks

Students in grades 1 to 12 are required to wear properly fitted non-medical or cloth masks indoors in school, including in hallways and during classes, as well as on school vehicles, with reasonable exceptions for medical conditions. A mask exemption form for staff or students who require a medical exemption can be requested from the principal.

Students in kindergarten are encouraged but not required to wear non-medical or cloth masks in indoor spaces, as well as on school transportation vehicles.

Where they can be worn safely based on the activity, masking is encouraged for engaging in physical activity (read health and physical education section).

The Board will continue to refer to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and Public Health Ontario (PHO) for guidance on appropriate mask types and usage.

At the advice of local public health units, schools may need to implement additional masking measures based on local circumstances.

Staff personal protective equipment (PPE)

The Board will continue to provide school staff with required PPE, including medical masks (surgical/procedural), eye protection and other PPE based on their specific role/job functions (for example, gloves, gowns).

Medical masks (surgical/procedural) are required to be worn by school staff and visitors indoors in school, including in hallways and during classes. Staff are not required to wear medical masks outdoors. Staff must maintain at least two metres distance when consuming food/drinks.

Reasonable exceptions to the requirement for staff to wear masks will apply.

Distancing and congregating

As much distancing as possible between students, between students and staff and between staff members will continue to be promoted. Physical distancing measures are to be layered with other public health measures such as screening, hand hygiene, cohorting, enhanced cleaning and masking.

Recess and breaks outdoors

Students do not need to stay within their cohort during recess and breaks outdoors, but distancing should be encouraged between cohorts as much as possible.


While COVID-19 vaccination continues to be voluntary for anyone eligible in Ontario, health experts encourage anyone who is able to get the vaccine as a highly effective tool in the fight against COVID-19 and its variants.

More information about shared materials, shared spaces and lunch protocols can be found on the school board’s website.

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