COVID-19 Update: Preparing for the Return to In-Person Learning on January 17, 2022

COVID-19 Update: Preparing for the Return to In-Person Learning on January 17, 2022
Posted on 01/14/2022
COVID-19 Update: Preparing for the Return to In-Person Learning on January 17, 2022

Please read the Special Statement released by Dr. Vera Etches, Chief Medical Officer dated January 12, 2022.

"Omicron cannot be stopped altogether. But we can work to blunt the peak and slow transmission so that hospitals can maintain capacity to deliver care." 

Update: Please Use Ontario COVID-19 Daily Screening Tool

Students, parents and staff - please use the provincial COVID-19 screening tool every morning to determine whether or not attend school in-person. The updated provincial screening tool is available in English and in French.  Use this OPH flowchart to understand symptoms and isolation requirements.

Masks and Mask Usage 

Schools will be distributing 3-ply cloth masks to students in schools beginning the week of January 17. Students in K-12 should wear a high quality mask that is well-fitted.  In cold weather, masks worn outdoors can become damp or wet; families may wish to send an extra mask for outdoor play. For more information about mask wearing, guidelines, and recommendations, please visit Ottawa Public Health’s website.  

Rapid Antigen Tests

Two Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) will be provided to each elementary student. We hope to distribute these next week, once the Ministry shipment has been received. We expect to receive additional tests for secondary at a later date. These are to be used if students are showing symptoms of COVID-19. If a student receives two negative tests and no longer has any symptoms of COVID-19, they can return to school. To learn how to use a Rapid Antigen Test, instructions are available in multiple languages.

Absence Reporting 

The province has changed the Covid reporting process. Schools and child care operators will no longer be routinely notifying families of positive cases or if an individual is absent due to symptoms associated with COVID-19. Moving forward, schools will monitor absenteeism rates and report daily on student and staff absences and school closures. We are working through the new Ministry direction and this reporting is scheduled to begin on January 24, 2022. Principals will be required to notify their local public health unit if absenteeism rises to a defined level (approximately 30% above their baseline) in schools.

Student Attendance 

While we all recognize the value of in-person learning experiences for children and youth, we know that some families may not yet be ready to have children return to school in person. As always, we ask that parents and caregivers inform the school of student absences. Regardless of the reason for the student’s absence, students not attending school can continue to engage with their class and learning materials asynchronously through their Google Classroom or Virtual Learning Environment.

Staffing Shortages - Possibility of Class or School Closures 

Similar to other sectors in our community, schools may be impacted by staffing shortages. We will make every effort to keep classes and schools open, but if we cannot operate safely, a class or school may have to pivot to remote learning until we can arrange for appropriate coverage. If this happens, we will make every effort to advise parents the night before. We encourage parents to have contingency plans in place and to monitor your email for updates.



The OCDSB has invested $25 million in school ventilation upgrades. All of our schools meet or exceed the ASHRAE recommendations for school HVAC operation during the pandemic. In addition, we have 2300 standalone HEPA units in schools, and an additional 81 standalone HEPA filter units coming from the Ontario government. Take a look at our updated OCDSB ventilation webpage.

Vaccines - Drop-in availability

Ottawa Public Health’s Community Clinics are now open to all for drop-in appointments for a first, second, or booster dose. Please visit the OPH website for clinic dates and times.  Information regarding school-based vaccine clinics will be available towards the end of January. 

Mental health and wellness

Next week there will be virtual drop-in sessions with our OCDSB mental health team. Parents can hear from and ask questions to our mental health professionals.  Learn more on our website  

The OCDSB mental health team has prepared some simple tips to support students and parents with well-being during these transitions between in-person and remote learning. Learn more about these and other resources.

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