Information on the Return to In-Person Learning

Posted On Friday January 14, 2022

Dear Parents/Guardians,

As a follow-up to the message shared on Wednesday evening, we are writing to share reminders and further updates that will support the return to in-person learning on Monday, January 17. Before coming back to school, please make use of the rapid antigen screening tests that were provided prior to the winter break if you have any left. If your child tests positive, please keep them at home and follow the instructions in the self-screening tool.

You are required to complete the updated self-screening tool by visiting for your child every day and follow the instructions given. If your child is sick and/or not feeling well, please do not send them to school under any circumstances. Current provincial guidance is that if your child has certain symptoms of COVID-19, it is presumed that they may have COVID-19. Please help keep our school community safe by following this direction.

We are sharing additional updates based on the operational guidance we have received from the Ministry of Education and the Durham Region Health Department for the return to school on Monday, January 17.

All students in Kindergarten to Grade 12 are required to wear a mask while at school or on student transportation. Wearing a well-fitted high-quality mask is one way to help slow the spread of the Omicron variant. We will be distributing provincially supplied three-ply cloth masks as supply allows. The purpose of this measure is to encourage students to use a higher quality mask than some of the single or two-ply masks that some may currently be relying upon.

If your child is in kindergarten, please prepare them to wear a mask while at school. We have seen most kindergarten children successfully adapt to this practice and encourage you to have your child do so for their safety and the safety of others. Here are a few age-friendly activities to make mask wearing fun.

Daily Screening for COVID-19 Symptoms
All students and parents/guardians MUST perform a self-screening before leaving home for school. The self-screening questions have changed, and the screening can be accessed at You are required to complete the screening and answer the questions every morning. As an added measure, schools will be undertaking daily on-site confirmation that the screening has been done with all students. Anyone who has COVID-19 symptoms or has tested positive must self-isolate, regardless of vaccination status and follow the instructions of the self-screener.

The Chief Medical Officer of Health is also requiring that household members, including siblings, stay home until the household member experiencing symptom(s) is cleared from their isolation. If a student attending school is exhibiting any symptoms, they will be sent home along with the student’s siblings and you will be required to pick them up.

Access to COVID-19 Testing
The Ministry of Education has indicated that all students and staff attending school in-person will receive rapid antigen tests. The DDSB has not received enough tests for all in-person students and staff. We have contacted the Ministry of Education to tell them that we require more immediately. In the meantime, their direction has been for us to provide distribution beginning with kindergarten as those students do not yet have access to vaccination, and for staff to help keep schools open. We will distribute two tests per student and staff as soon as we receive enough tests from the Ministry of Education. Please do not contact the office enquiring about tests. These tests are only to be used if your child experiences COVID-19 symptoms while at home.

Please note that we have a very limited supply of take-home PCR self-collection tests that will only be distributed if a student or staff member becomes sick while at school and only if they meet certain provincially mandated criteria. Please remember that if your child is sick, do not send them to school. You should use the rapid antigen tests (if available) when directed by the COVID-19 screening tool.

Reporting of COVID-19 Cases
The Ministry of Education is no longer collecting COVID-19 case numbers from school boards. Starting Wednesday, January 19, the DDSB will be publicly reporting data on the COVID-19 Advisory page of the DDSB website on the following categories:

  • Number of Staff/Students Absent with Illness (Self-Reported by Staff/Students)
  • Number of Positive COVID-19 Tests Disclosed (Rapid or PCR) (Self-Reported by Staff/Students)
  • School Absenteeism Over 15%
  • Schools Closed Due to Operational Needs or by Durham Region Health Department

Our goal is to be as transparent as possible with families with this data. This data will be self-reported by parents/guardians and/or staff through normal absence reporting processes and we cannot guarantee the accuracy of it. It is meant to be a snapshot of the current COVID-19 situation and absences due to illness in schools and workplaces for the previous school day. We will be sharing specific instructions with you early next week on how to report if your child is sick or if you have a positive COVID-19 test result (from either a rapid antigen or PCR test).

When schools become aware of a positive case of COVID-19 through a self-reported PCR or rapid antigen test, we will be notifying the school community which class the positive result was from. The Ministry of Health has indicated that public health units will no longer be dismissing classes. Instead, parents/guardians and/or students must complete the daily COVID-19 screening tool to determine if they are permitted to return to school.

If absences exceed 30% of the school population, we are required by the Ministry of Health to inform the Durham Region Health Department who may provide additional direction to the school community.

Mental Health and Well-Being

We understand how challenging another transition between remote and in-person learning can be for students and families and we will continue prioritizing the mental health and well-being of all students. School Mental Health Ontario has provided a list of available resources for both students and families to refer to. As well, the following Ontario Help Lines for Mental Health are available:

  • Children and teens can speak with a counsellor 24/7 by calling Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868 or texting CONNECT to 686868.
  • The Black Youth Helpline offers support for all youth and specifically responds to the need for a Black youth specific service, positioned and resourced to promote access to professional, culturally appropriate support for youth, families and schools. Please call: 1-833-294-8650
  • The Hope for Wellness Help Line offers mental health counselling and crisis intervention to all Indigenous peoples across Canada. Please call 1-855-242-3310
  • The Métis Nation of Ontario (MNO) offers a 24-hour Mental Health and Addictions Crisis Line with culturally specific mental health and addiction supports for adults, youth, and families in Ontario in both English and French, please call: 1-877-767-7572.
  • Use Ontario 211 to look up the services available in your area.

Indoor High Contact and High Intensity Activities? 

On the strong advice of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, indoor high contact and high intensity activities, such as wrestling or basketball, will be paused temporarily to ensure the health and well-being of students. Low-risk extracurriculars/clubs are permitted to continue.

Multi-Cohort Choirs and Wind Instrument Ensembles

Multi-cohort choirs and wind instrument ensembles will be paused temporarily.

Transferring to/from DDSB@Home <Elementary Only>
Families will have received a separate, learning preference-specific communication on Friday, January 14, outlining steps to be taken should you wish to transfer to/from DDSB@Home for the remainder of the school year. The deadline to inform us that you would like to change learning options is Friday, January 21, with the transfer expected to take effect the week of February 14.  

Temporary Broadcast Learning and Technology Needs <Elementary Only>
During this time, we understand that some families may need to access temporary broadcast learning due to isolation related to COVID-19 symptoms, concerns about the level of COVID-19 cases, or while waiting for the opportunity to transition to DDSB@Home. We will be sharing more information with you mid-next week on this program that will be available until mid-February. Families who have received DDSB technology for use during remote learning will not be asked to return devices at this time.

Ventilation in Schools

Our efforts to improve ventilation and air quality in classrooms are ongoing. We have HEPA air filtration units in every kindergarten classroom and every classroom that is not fully mechanically ventilated. We are receiving additional units from the Ministry of Education and are also purchasing more units as funding becomes available. Information about ventilation in schools, including school-specific details are available on the DDSB website.

On behalf of everyone at the Durham District School Board we are looking forward to welcoming you back to school next week and thank you for working with us to support your child’s learning during this time.


Durham District School Board