President's Message January 14th 2022

Update January 14th

First I want to acknowledge and thank Educational Assistant members who have been in school since Monday, January 10th. I recognize the inequity, fear, and frustration many of you feel this week and want to thank you for the difference you made to students and families at a very difficult time.

We also want to share the following letters that have been sent on your behalf. January 12, 2022 https://mcusercontent.com/fd92d8e08ce1d6b287b53b308/files/d3a62e53-2536-38ce-4764-40ba47cf5347/01.12.2022_Letter_to_PH_DE.pdf January 14, 2022 https://mcusercontent.com/fd92d8e08ce1d6b287b53b308/files/aaa08c01-7830-e8a1-a37a-f90a85b2c347/01.14.2022_Letter_to_DoE.pdf The Board has provided the following responses to the questions asked in today's letter. If you have questions or concerns related to the letters or responses please contact me directly. Q: Will you be reporting absences by aggregate to the Joint Health and Safety Committee, the school community, and the Public Health Unit on a daily basis?

  • The UGDSB will be reporting aggregated, depersonalized data on school absence rates on a daily basis. This will include both student and staff absences and will be made available publicly on the UGDSB website.

  • The UGDSB will notify Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health if a school has exceeded the 30% threshold of the school’s daily average absence rate.

Q: What is your plan for replacing absent staff which does not include mixing cohorts?

  • Schools will employ numerous strategies to replace absent staff including:

  • Callouts to access the Occasional Teacher Roster and the Support Staff Casual List(s)

  • Use of Centrally Assigned Staff and Management

  • Use of Emergency supply staff

  • Use all staff in buildings (Guidance, Library, SERT etc.)

  • Reassigning of staff from other buildings

  • Adjust planning times/prep periods in line with collective agreement requirements

  • Use available pre-service teacher candidates in schools as emergency supplies

  • Redistribute students to other classes

  • Combine classes

  • Extend outdoor activity/learning time to provide flexibility in supervision

  • As a last resort, shifting a class and/or school to remote learning temporarily


**Of note, the above list is not reflective of a mandatory flow of steps and will be adjusted/applied as appropriate to each circumstance/school


Q: Do you have a sufficient quantity of approved N95 masks for all staff?

  • All education staff (including office coordinators, caretakers, maintenance, supply staff, itinerant staff, etc.) will be provided with the option of a non-fit N95 mask. Staff may also continue to wear an ASTM Level 2 medical mask or may opt to wear a NIOSH or Health Canada approved N95 mask (provided by the employee at their own expense, per the recently implemented board protocol).

  • The Ministry of Education is providing 1 (one) non-fit-tested N95 mask for staff per day. The UGDSB will not be providing alternative non-fit-tested N95 masks.

Q: What is your plan to provide training to use N95 masks correctly including donning and doffing of masks?

  • On January 13, 2022, the UGDSB Health and Safety Department sent a memo via email to all UGDSB staff with information regarding the proper use of N95 masks.

  • The COVID-19 Health and Safety Measures training program, which was assigned to all staff to complete prior to returning to in-person work in January, included instructions on how to don and doff a non-fit-tested N95 mask. This training requirement was sent to all staff on Thursday, January 6, 2022, and ought reasonably to have been completed as of today's date.

Q: Will the announced high-quality three-ply masks be available for students in all schools?

  • Yes. Three-ply masks have been distributed to all schools. All UGDSB students will be provided with high-quality three-ply masks. The use of these masks is optional but encouraged.

Q: What is the Board’s protocol for distributing student masks and instructions for how to use them?

  • The board has delivered the shipments of student masks to school sites. School administrators will facilitate the distribution of student masks when in-person learning resumes. The board has also shared information on all school websites and the board website about the proper use and care of cloth masks, and school administrators have been provided with a handout that they can distribute as needed.

Q: Do you have a plan to ‘strongly encourage’ the use of these three-ply masks?

Q: Do you have enough Rapid Antigen Tests to allow for the testing of students and staff two to three times per week to detect infections and prevent outbreaks?

  • At this time, the province is only providing rapid antigen tests per person for symptomatic use and not for regular asymptomatic screening purposes.

  • The province is providing two (2) Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT) for students, children, and staff. Students and staff will receive a package of two tests, for voluntary use at home if they develop symptoms. If students or staff do not have a test at home, they are not to go to the school to get one. The province has stated that the first shipment of RATs is prioritized for child care, in-person elementary students, and in-person school staff. School boards with remaining tests will also begin to distribute to secondary students. Please note, these tests are for staff and students who are working/attending school in person.

  • Staff who are not fully vaccinated will continue to be provided with RATs, which they are required to do three times per week. That has not changed.

Q: What is your plan to distribute PCR tests for staff and students to safely be readmitted back to school?

  • The UGDSB received approximately 4,200 PCR kits for schools, which is approximately 10% of student enrolment. Some of these kits may have already been distributed prior to the winter break. The Ministry of Education has instructed school boards that the remaining PCR kits already in schools may be distributed with a targeted focus on students and staff who develop symptoms while at school. Additional PCR tests will not be provided to boards.

  • Additionally, the province is providing two (2) Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT) for students, children, and staff. Students and staff will receive a package of two tests, for voluntary use at home if they develop symptoms. If students or staff do not have a test at home, they are not to go to the school to get one. The province has stated that the first shipment of RATs is prioritized for child care, in-person elementary students, and in-person school staff. School boards with remaining tests will also begin to distribute to secondary students. Please note, these tests are for staff and students who are working/attending school in person.

Q: Do you have HEPA filtration units in all actively used spaces, including bathrooms?

  • 100% of UGDSB classrooms have a HEPA filtration unit. UGDSB has well exceeded the provincial standard for the distribution of HEPA filtration units in schools.

Q: What is your plan to utilize larger spaces and/or smaller class sizes to allow for physical distancing between students and staff?

  • Schools will employ a number of strategies to encourage physical distancing, including instructing staff to remove excess items and furniture from classrooms, and pausing all extracurricular activities. Schools continue to be encouraged to take advantage of outdoor spaces for learning and activities as much as possible and as the weather allows.

Q: What are your safety protocols for mask-less periods? (such as staggered lunch periods, expanding locations in schools, taking measures to reduce density of students eating together)

  • Schools have been provided with guidelines/protocols for lunch periods that will reduce the number of students with masks off at the same period of time or in the same space. The administration will work with school staff to address lunch periods at each school. While our schools are well utilized for space, where available larger-sized classes may choose to use a nearby empty classroom during the eating breaks to distribute students who have their masks off while eating, as they have previously.

Over the coming days and weeks, it is going to be very important that you keep us informed of your worksite situation, while we all need to have some flexibility we still have a Collective Agreement that has to be followed. You may be asked to do things you are not normally asked to do, maybe the work of other employee groups, overtime, etc. First please do as you are asked unless unsafe, and then reach out to me immediately following. I can't address what I do not know. Rest this weekend, take care of yourself and reach out anytime even if you just need somewhere to vent. Cheryl

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