Another pandemic-related school year begins this week in Ajax, Pickering, Whitby, Oshawa and Clarington

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Published September 7, 2021 at 11:31 am

Another year of pandemic-focused education begins today for the Durham Catholic District School Board and Thursday for the Durham District School Board, with some students – like last year – getting their education online.

The hope of parents, students, teachers and school officials was that the 2021-22 school year would be a return to pre-pandemic normalcy but the fourth wave and the rising COVID-19 cases quickly dispelled that notion and masks and health and safety protocols will once again be required in schools.

In their message to parents, public school board officials said they will be focusing on “everyday mental health” and well-being strategies “to support educators’ and students’ return to school by encouraging belonging, building trust, and creating optimal conditions for learning and development.”

Elementary students will attend school five days per week, with students grouped together in a cohort for the full day. Students will still receive 300 minutes of face-to-face educator instruction, and the full range of the elementary curriculum will be provided.

Families should expect continued staggering of bell times, entry, exit and recess.

Students in Grades 1 to 12 will be required to wear non-medical or cloth masks indoors in school, including in hallways, during classes, and while on school buses, with medical exemptions allowed.

Staggered starts will be in place for kindergarten students to help them adjust to a new learning environment.

Full-day in-person learning five days per week will be in place for secondary students who selected in-person education. For the first half of the school year, secondary schools will be operating on a quadmester schedule with students taking two courses at a time for approximately 45 school days per quadmester.

The goal is to return to a semestered system in the new year. Students will be required to wear masks while in school, and enhanced health and safety protocols will be implemented. Secondary cafeterias will be open and students will continue to have the opportunity to leave school for lunch.

All secondary students will be learning from 10 am to 4 pm daily during the 2021-22 school year. This includes those in special education classes and those learning at home.

Students who opted for virtual learning this year will receive an education similar to what they would receive at a physical school. They will receive 300 minutes of “learning opportunities,” with a combination of both RealTime (synchronous/live) and FlexTime (asynchronous/independent/not live) learning activities.

Programming will be based on the full Ontario curriculum and include opportunities for guided instruction, large- and small-group learning, synchronous check-ins, and asynchronous independent work. Teachers will be available to students at all times during the teachers’ assigned teaching timetables, as they would be if they were face-to-face in a classroom setting.

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