COVID-19: Ottawa-Carleton board releases back-to-school plan ahead of vaccine policy decision

Ottawa’s largest school board has outlined its plan for September’s return to the classroom even as uncertainty remains around COVID-19 vaccination policies for staff and students.

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) was set to discuss a vaccine policy for teachers, staff and eligible students at a meeting on Tuesday evening, but decisions on that issue and other safety measures were put off until another meeting now set for a week later.

A few days on, the board released its back-to-school plans to give parents and students a better sense of what they can expect when returning to the classroom on Sept. 9.

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Field trips will be limited to the immediate area of the school grounds or surrounding neighbourhood, nothing requiring group transportation.

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School assemblies will be held either virtually or outdoors.

Any extra-curricular activities, including sports, will be either virtual or on-hold at the start of the year.

OCDSB will assess in-person activities for possible risk after the school year has begun.

Masks will be required for all students in grades one through 12 indoors. As it stands, kindergarteners will be “strongly encouraged” to wear a mask, but a mandatory policy for the youngest students will be among the topics debated at next week’s meeting.

Read more: Carleton University tightens COVID-19 vaccine mandate, limits testing workarounds

Only essential visitors and volunteers, including parents, will be allowed to enter schools and by appointment only.

Many measures from the first year of COVID-19 in schools will return, including daily screening for symptoms at home before students come to school, cohorting, physical distancing, directional signage and enhanced cleaning processes.

For high school students, most will take four courses per semester, divided into two classes per week on a rotating basis.

The OCDSB’s meeting to decide on a vaccine policy and other final health measures will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 31 at 6 p.m.

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