Staff and leadership with the Kenora Catholic District School Board are hoping to clear-up any misconceptions about the use of face masks in schools, as students prepare to head back to the classroom next month.

Students in Grades 4 to 12 are required to wear masks, while mask-wearing for Kindergarten to Grade 3 students is strongly encouraged. Teachers and support staff will also wear appropriate personal protective equipment.

Public Health Ontario says face shields do not offer you the same level of protection from COVID-19, and they are not a substitute for face masks. Grade 4 to 12 students can wear face shields, but they must also wear a mask underneath.

Director of Education, Derek Haime, adds that masks will be made available for students who don’t come to school with their own.

“Students are encouraged to bring in their own masks. They’re the ones they have practised with and they’re comfortable with, and that’s amazing. But we realize that sometimes students will forget, so we will have masks available at school for those who forget.”

Students may be granted an exemption from wearing a mask for reasons related to a medical condition, mental health, sensory, breathing difficulties, or other reasons deemed reasonable by your school’s principal, who will follow the board’s guidelines.

The KCDSB adds that if a student refuses to wear a mask without medical accommodations, the situation will be reviewed by the principal.

Other COVID-19 safety measures include staff immediately notifying the parents and guardians if their child becomes ill, and the need for emergency contact is vital. The class of the ill child or staff member may be closed until cleaning takes place.

In that situation, the class would be relocated to another area in the building. Students or staff members who test positive will not be able to return to school until they clear the Northwestern Health Unit’s guidelines and isolation.

Schools will also have a protocol where if they’re notified that a staff member or student has become ill overnight, the school needs to be notified so they can clean the areas where the person was, before becoming ill.

If another student in your student’s classroom becomes ill, the health unit may notify other parents, based on if there is significant concern. If there is contact tracing required, you will be contacted directly by health unit staff.

If another student in your child’s cohort are positive for COVID-19 and your student is required to self-isolate by the health unit, students will be supported through access to remote-learning tools.

Haime adds that trustees have opted to switch to a new quadmester system, replacing the original dual semester system, for Grade 9 to 12 students. The board is also planning a staggered start for secondary students, to ease students back into the classroom.

For more information:
COVID-19 changes course load for Kenora Catholic students
Kenora Catholic – Return to School FAQ