The Keewatin Patrica District School Board is preparing to welcome students, staff, teachers, and parents back to school this fall, as in-class learning returns.

“We’re really excited to welcome our students back in person, and reconnect with our students and our staff. We’re looking very much forward to it, at the same time we know that we have an important responsibility to ensure all students and staff are as safe as possible when they return to school,” said KPDSB Director of Education Sherri-Lynne Pharand

Students can expect similar COVID-19 measures from last year such as; a daily self-assessment from students upon arrival to school, masking is required for grades 1 through 12 and students will be in cohorts for their two classes each day, instead of the usual four. Kindergarten students are exempt from mask-wearing, but it is encouraged.

Hand hygiene will still be implemented and extra time will be given for students to wash their hands, with specific points of entry and exits to avoid large groups in a single area.

An exciting part of the back-to-school plan is co-curricular activities will return such as; band, athletics, and drama to name a few.

Students can expect an increase in outdoor learning to take advantage of the benefits of the environment of Northwestern Ontario.

In addition to the measures outlined in the back-to-plan, the KPDSB has gone above and beyond and hired additional custodian support to ensure high touched surfaces are cleaned during peak school times.

In addition to in-class returning, the Ontario government has committed an additional $25 million to improve school ventilation systems to assure all students, staff, and teachers are protected from COVID-19.

Pharand noted that all school ventilation systems have been inspected for operations and optimization and are fully monitored for both fresh air and filter quality. All kindergarten classrooms will have a standalone high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter unit, as students are not masked

The KPDSB will work closely with the Northwestern Health Unit to ensure COVID-19 practices are being met and ensure a safe return-to-school for the students, staff, and teachers.

The KPDSB has contingency plans in place in the event cases rise and students have to switch over to online learning. The school board has technology for all the students to have a device for online learning and they have worked with Tbaytel to distribute hot spots that students can use if internet access is limited.

As the roller coaster ride that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused for students has slowed down and a sense of normalcy returns, Pharand wants to say thank you.

“It's been a really challenging last year and a half and I would really like to say thank you to our parents for their continued support and commitment to learning. To our students for working hard in spite of the many different challenges that there were and with all the different changes. They constantly had smiling faces and happiness to learn,” says Pharand

“I would also like to say a sincere thanks to all of our staff, who truly put kids first every single day,” added Pharand

The first day of school for the KPDSB is scheduled to be September 2, 2021.

The return of in-class learning was announced on August 3, 2021, by the Minister of Education Stephen Lecce.