Update as of January 7, 2022 (Please note, all updates are highlighted)
As we have done throughout the pandemic, Christ The Redeemer (CTR) Catholic’s schools continues to adhere to the Chief Medical Officer of Health’s (CMOH) guidance. Complete details from the ministry on Staying Safe and Healthy this School Year can be found here. Our plans are fluid and we take our counsel from the CMOH’s office. CTR will continue with a multifaceted approach to reducing the risk of spread of both COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses with the following measures:
Rapid Tests, Isolation, and Daily Health Screening
- All students and staff are encouraged to participate in Alberta Health Services’ optional at-home rapid testing program.
- Rapid at-home tests will be distributed to students and staff beginning the week of January 10th.
- Students and staff should use rapid tests and the Alberta Health Daily Checklist (updated January 2022) for the purpose of determining whether they should attend school. Parents are not obligated to report the results of the test, but are welcome to do so.
- Upon receiving the rapid tests, students and staff should administer self tests twice a week (e.g. every Sunday evening and Wednesday evening). Additional self-testing may be administered if an individual becomes symptomatic on other days.
- Video instruction on using a rapid test are located here. Written instructions on using a rapid test are located here.
- Instructions for what to do after receiving a positive test or negative test (while symptomatic) are located here. After a positive test, fully vaccinated individuals will isolate for 5 days from the start of symptoms or until they resolve, whichever is longer, but they must wear a mask at all times for the next five days. (*Note, we are still awaiting guidance about whether or not the 5 days of masking applies to K-3 students.) After a positive test, unvaccinated individuals will isolate for 10 days from the start of symptoms or until they resolve, whichever is longer. Comprehensive information on the isolation requirements for those testing positive for COVID can be found here.
- Parents/guardians continue to play an essential role in supporting our schools by keeping their children home when sick with one or more core symptom. Before leaving home, staff, students, and visitors should monitor for any symptoms daily using the Alberta Health Daily Checklist (updated January 2022). If staff or students are symptomatic but do not not test positive, they should stay home and away from others until symptoms resolve.
- Principals continue to limit the number of parents, volunteers, and visitors to the school.
- Volunteers and contractors are permitted in our schools if they pass the Alberta Health’s Daily Checklist and demonstrate proof of vaccination or a rapid test result from a pharmacy or AHS.
- Parents who are permitted in our schools must pass the Alberta Health’s Daily Checklist.
Hand Hygiene, Respiratory Etiquette, Cleaning, and Ventilation
- Schools will promote and facilitate hand hygiene by maintaining one hand sanitizing station in each classroom and in many common areas of the school. Schools may either spray hands as students enter/exit the building, or teach students to follow the routine themselves. Schools will encourage students to practice hand hygiene before/after activities (e.g. entering/leaving school or classroom, boarding/exiting the bus, changing activities, before and after using shared equipment, before and after eating or serving food, after using washrooms, etc.).
- Teachers will promote proper respiratory etiquette by reminding students to cough and sneeze into a tissue, one’s elbow, or a mask rather than their hand.
- Students will be provided with appropriate cleaning supplies for their desks, and teachers will remind students to clean their desks at various times each day to establish good habits and routines.
- Schools will maintain regular daytime cleaning and increased disinfection of high traffic/touch areas throughout the day.
- Schools will maintain effective ventilation by delivering three air exchanges per hour, as compared to former standards of two air exchanges per hour. In addition, the heating and ventilation filters have been set to the highest efficiency particulate filter that the system is capable of handling without impeding airflow. Air exchange is set for longer hours during the day. Air filters are replaced more frequently than manufacturer’s suggested guidelines. Modular classrooms have the same ventilation standards, and CTR installed operable windows in most modulars over the summer. Teachers will be asked to keep windows open to encourage air circulation when climatically reasonable.
- Mask use for students in Grades K-3 remains optional in all areas of the school. Though not mandated, the Chief Medical Officer of Health strongly recommends mask use for students in Grade K-3. Masking along with physical distancing will help reduce transmission. All students in K-3 should have masks on-hand at school to respond to unexpected circumstances (e.g. they begin experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and are waiting to go home).
- All students in Grades 4 to 12 are required to wear masks in all areas of the school. Although now strongly recommended, masks are not required while students are seated in the classroom during instruction if students are working quietly and desks are arranged so students are not facing each other. If close contact between students, or students and teachers/staff is going to occur as a result of classroom activities, masks should be used for the duration of this activity.
- Staff may remove masks when seated at their work stations and 2 metres distanced from students. Staff may also remove their masks when teaching and 2 metres distanced from others.
- Schools will distribute medical-grade masks for all Pre-K to Grade 12 students and all staff the week of January 10th or as soon as they have been delivered. Masks will be sent home with students, and parents will receive an email notification on the day they are sent home. Please note: principals may choose to keep the masks at school and distribute them to students when they arrive, and parents will be informed if this is the case.
- The child masks for K to 6 students are level 3 masks that have greater than 98% filtration efficiency and protect against low to medium levels of aerosols, spray, and/or fluids. The adult masks for Grade 7 to adult individuals are level 2 masks with greater than 98% filtration efficiency and protect against heavy levels of aerosols, spray, and/or fluids. The medical masks are of higher quality than cloth masks and recommended by AHS, but non-medical masks are also protective and may continue to be worn when medical masks are not available.
- Students and staff are encouraged to wear two medical masks per day, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. Medical masks are not designed to fit tightly against the face. Medical masks are single use and disposable. Those using cloth masks should store them in clean paper or cloth bag and wash them daily.
- All staff, visitors, volunteers, and guests are required to wear masks in all areas of the school, the Catholic Education Centre, and the Centre for Learning@HOME.
- Masks may be removed when students are engaged in physical activity during or after the school day.
- Masks are not required for students engaged in instrumental or choral music, but teachers will provide as much distancing as possible. This applies to curricular programming before, during, or after school.
- Masking remains required for all students and staff on school buses as per the public health order.
- Schools do not have the authority to grant mask exemptions. Mask exemptions are granted by a nurse practitioner, physician or a psychologist with this form. Mask exemptions cannot be honoured on buses that are at capacity, because we cannot accommodate the rule regarding two metres of physical distancing.
Cohorts and Physical Distancing
- For the month of January, teachers are asked to move students into rows and limit group work. Exceptions can be made for complementary courses where group work is required.
- In classrooms where Grade K-3 students are seated in small groups, CTR has installed plexiglass partitions. Plexiglass partitions are installed in all other classrooms in which students are not seated in rows.
- Students in Grades K-6 are primarily cohorted in homerooms as per routine practice. Principals will eliminate the rare instances where cohorting does not occur, as soon as possible.
- Students in Grade 7-9 are partially cohorted for core subjects. Students in Grades 10-12 are not cohorted.
- Desks and small groups will be spaced apart as much as possible and extra furniture will be kept to a minimum. Area carpets for younger students are an important instructional tool and may be reinstalled.
- CTR has maintained staffing levels at Pre-COVID levels. K-12 class sizes are projected to be an average 22.6 students per class.
Co-Curricular and Extra-Curricular Programming
- Extra-curricular sports and activities for Grades 7-12 will resume on January 10, unless AHS or Alberta Education directs otherwise.
- Requirements to maintain two metres physical distancing where possible will remain.
- Masks are not required by students engaged in physical activity during extra-curricular sports. Masks are required when not engaged in physical activity (e.g. watching from sidelines).
- Masks are required by students in Grades 4 to 12 engaged in non-physical extracurricular activities (e.g. student council, inclusion groups, art club).
- Performance activities (e.g. drama, band, choral) are permitted with requirements to maintain two metres distancing where possible.
- Spectator attendance is limited to one-third fire code capacity at all indoor physical activities. Attendees must be masked and ensure physical distancing between different households or an individual who lives alone and their two close contacts.
- The Board has not yet lifted their decision to suspend international travel.
Non-Essential Indoor Gatherings
- All school and central office meetings will occur online unless a strict two metres of physical distancing can be maintained.
- Most professional learning gatherings that assemble staff from more than one school will be conducted online.
- These guidelines do not apply to outdoor gatherings.
Responding When Staff or Student Absenteeism Rates Increase
- CTR will continue to monitor student and staff absence rates on a daily basis to assess operational viability.
- Unlike previous waves of COVID where many healthy individuals were self-isolating at home, during the Omicron wave staff and students who are at home will often be ill and not expected to teach/complete school work, and therefore live streaming is far less likely to be appropriate. This is the reason for the considerations in points 3 to 7 that follow.
- During the extended winter break, teachers developed 5 days of emergency sub plans. These plans are for use when a teacher is too ill to plan and can be used by substitute teachers or classroom supervisors, and are generally designed to be completed independently by students.
- Teachers are asked to identify one reasonable makeup task already contained in each lesson, and they should plan to assign this task to absent students when developing their original lessons. This will prepare teachers to be responsive to the routine students absenteeism we expect due to COVID. Teachers have been asked to ensure these make-up tasks are not punitive, age-appropriate, and are reasonable to complete in the event a student is absent for an extended period.
- For very young students in Grades K-3 basic literacy and numeracy should be the focus and there should be minimal mandatory at-home make-up tasks.
- When students are absent for an extended period of time such as 5 to 10 days, teachers are asked to further condense the make-up learning tasks to only the most essential elements.
- If teachers experience high levels of student absenteeism in a particular class, teachers will use their professional judgement to reduce student workloads, so that absent students have reasonable opportunity to catch up, allowing the class to continue to progress at the same pace. Review and practice are effective alternatives to advancing instruction when absenteeism spikes to very high levels. These considerations apply regardless of whether students are learning in school or at home.
COVID Case Monitoring. Reporting, and Conditions Triggering a Transition to At-Home Learning
- Due to the discontinuation of widespread PCR testing, COVID case monitoring and reporting will be discontinued by both AHS and CTR.
- The shift to at-home learning will be due to operational reasons such as extreme staff shortages, not due to an individual positive case.
- CTR will monitor student and staff absentee rates on a daily basis to assess whether it is reasonable and possible to continue offering in-person learning.
- CTR’s schools will employ escalating interventions when staff absenteeism increases and make all reasonable attempts to keep schools operational.
- Short-term shifts to at-home learning will be no more than 10 calendar days in length. A 10-day shift reduces the need to have extensions to the length of shifts which results in uncertainty for students, parents, and staff. This also aligns with the typical isolation period for an unvaccinated individual testing positive for COVID.
- Alberta Education grants school divisions the ability to shift a class or grade within a school to at-home learning at their discretion. Shifting one or more schools or the entire division to at-home learning for operational reasons requires Alberta Education approval.
- The following factors will be considered by Alberta Education when determining whether schools will shift to at-home learning: a) significant student absences; b) insufficient number of staff to ensure continuity of learning; c) the number of classes/grades already shifted to at-home learning; d) local health data (if available); e) inability to secure substitute teachers; and f) key personnel, such as all administrators and office staff are ill.
- The following factors will be considered by Alberta Education when determining whether a school division will shift to at-home learning will include all information required for a school shift and local context such as: a) number of schools currently shifted; b) local health data (if available); and c) any other relevant context or data.
- As AHS indicates, Getting Vaccinated is our best defence to beat serious illness from COVID-19. Everyone 5+ is eligible for vaccination.
- AHS is also encouraging eligible individuals to get their booster shots.
Supporting Parental Choice and Staff Choice
- CTR will not impose any deadlines on moving from the traditional school to the Centre For Learning@Home or vice-versa, but principals will counsel families about both the advisability of such transfers and making transitions at logical and appropriate times to minimize learning loss when making the transition.
- CTR will once again consider staff requests to transfer from the traditional school to the Centre For Learning@Home or vice-versa as enrollment and staffing needs permit.
- CTR is committed to supporting mental health concerns by training teachers to implement universal strategies in the regular classroom, while also maintaining targeted support for at-risk students.
- CTR’s staff wellness initiative will continue.
- CTR is remediating learning loss using funds secured to remediate literacy and numeracy concerns in young children, and this will complement the existing reading intervention programs (Early Reading Intervention, Enhanced Reading, and Precision Reading) led by trained professionals that are already in place at every school.
- Beginning Tuesday, January 11, students in Grades 4 to 9 can access free online tutoring resources to help them catch up on important skills and learning in which they may have fallen behind due to the pandemic. Through the e-Tutoring Hub, students can watch pre-recorded learning sessions on numeracy and literacy at any time. Tutoring services will be expanded to include more grades and subjects later this year, as well as live tutoring sessions.
- January 2022 Diploma exams have been cancelled by the Minister of Education. The Minister has not yet made a decision on whether to proceed with Diploma Exam testing in June 2022.
- Schools/teachers have been given local autonomy with respect to whether or not they offer teacher-made final exams and how much they will be weighted.
- Grade 6 and 9 PAT exams will be administered in all subjects in June (English Language Arts, French Language Arts, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies). January's scheduled Grade 9 Provincial Achievement tests will proceed as scheduled with the exception of ELA/FLA, which are moved to the week of January 20th.