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COVID Update from Chair of the Board - January 14, 2022

My dear friends,

First and foremost, thank you for your continued patience, understanding, and resiliency as we continue to navigate this pandemic together. I know that the past couple of weeks have been difficult and challenging for our children, parents, staff, and the community at large and we are facing that challenge together as a Catholic community.

On Wednesday, the Ministry of Education announced that all elementary and secondary students will be returning to face-to-face learning next week. I know as a parent with a child in our system, things have been challenging in the rapid shift to virtual and now back to in-person classes. I fully understand that the past couple of weeks, and throughout the pandemic, things have been difficult for our children. Having said that, I know our children are resilient and they are all excited to return to the daily in-person interactions with their classmates and teachers who are vital for their educational and mental wellbeing.

For the BHNCDSB, this means that all secondary students will return to in-person classes on January 17th, and elementary students on January 18th as January 17th is a scheduled PD Day.

With these announcements, I know that many of you may have concerns and questions on the details of the return to school plan. As part of this board’s commitment to providing information in a timely and transparent manner, I am reaching out to provide you with the latest information about our return.

When we return on Monday/Tuesday, there will be several additional health and safety measures, as well as changes to our current practices. The BHNCDSB has always identified the health and safety of our staff and students as our number one priority, and we will continue to work hard to have in place all necessary health and safety strategies. We have, and continue to consult, work with and, act on the directions we receive from the province and our local public health units.

Please see the changes in the Update for Staff and Families - January 14, 2022 for more specifics and details as well as links to other resources.

In addition to the website link, and fully understanding that some of these measures require us to revert some of the progress we have made in reducing restrictions, I wanted to outline and clarify some of the more important changes that will be occurring.


In line with public health recommendations, high-quality, three-ply masks will be available for all students in schools the week of Jan. 17th, and N95s will be available for staff.


In the coming days, parents will receive more information with regards to vaccination clinics at some schools in our district. To be crystal clear, no child will be offered the opportunity to receive a vaccination without the expressed written consent from a parent or guardian.


Rapid tests, and a very limited number of PCR tests, will be available to students and staff starting next week.

Extra-curricular Sports

Although we hoped for our sports programs to reopen, at the direction of the province, high-contact sports will continue to be paused, and the BHNCDSB will continue to monitor and work with the Ministry of Education and Public Health, to see when they can resume.


At the direction of the province, steps will continue to be taken for physical distancing at lunch and during recess, which will include the reinstatement of cohorting outdoors during recess.

New Screening Tool and Self Isolation Guidelines

The province has updated its COVID-19 school screening tool to include new symptoms, and therefore it is extremely important for all staff and students to self-screen for COVID-19 symptoms before attending school. Self-isolation guidelines have also changed, and you will no longer be directed by Public Health to isolate, but rather from the direction given upon completion of the self-screening tool.

Screening Confirmation

Secondary students will continue the practice of on-site confirmation of screening. Starting in January, all elementary students will also be required to screen daily and confirm via the Daily On-Site COVID-19 Confirmation. Please note that an updated version of the screening form is attached to this message.


As you may be aware, the BHNCDSB has been one of the leaders in the province when it comes to ventilation. I am pleased to report that we have already deployed a great deal of HEPA units in all our schools, ensuring that every JK/SK classroom has a HEPA filter and in some cases more than one. As a result of the latest announcement from the provincial government, the BHNCDSB has received an additional small number of additional HEPA filters to be placed at select schools as determined by facilities staff.


The province announced in December that it will no longer collect COVID-19 case numbers from school boards and suspended the reporting of new cases among students and staff starting in January.

The province has directed all boards in the province to post attendance statistics once a threshold of 30% has been reached.

As an ongoing commitment to getting you the best possible data, our board will be exceeding that requirement and will post attendance statistics based on illness daily on our website to keep parents informed. We will continue to work collaboratively with our local public health units and the Ministry of Education, to incorporate the latest advice and to keep you informed of any changes in the COVID-19 case and contact management processes at schools.

Finally, we know that as a result of the new Omicron variant, when we return to school there will be a higher than normal rate of absenteeism among students and staff. As a Board, committed to the health and well-being of our students, although we are taking every measure possible to avoid this, there may be situations where individual schools may need to pivot to remote learning for a temporary period of time. If this occurs, we will reach out to families via School Messenger in as timely a manner as possible.

Thank you for your continued patience and support as we work together to keep our students, staff, and school communities safe. I know these are challenging times and am certain that we can remain steadfast in our faith as we continue our journey through this pandemic.


God Bless,

Rick Petrella
Chair of the Board