September 11th, 2020
Greetings once again, Smithson families!
Many of you will have received phone calls from your child(ren)’s teachers today to make that very important first connection with you. If you have not heard from them, fear not – they will be reaching out soon! Just a reminder too, that School Day will be open for parents to find out the name of their child’s teacher (for those returning to in-person learning at Smithson) starting tomorrow (Fri., Sept. 11th), and you will also then have access to these postings within School Day itself, rather than just through your email. You will also find over the course of this week and next, a number of important forms that you must complete through School Day. Again – we are going online with as many of our required forms as possible so as to limit the amount of paper that is going back and forth between school and home. A post summarizing the forms that will need to be completed will be sent out to help clarify everything.
I know that you have many questions, and I will do my best to answer some of them here. Hopefully you have read through the WRDSB’s FAQ page– a lot of great information is housed there for our families!
All students must remain with their cohorts (classes) for the entire Nutrition Break. Our plan is to have a “picnic style” outdoor lunch time at both breaks (weather and bees/wasps permitting) followed by outdoor play time. This play time will also be within their cohort only, and only within their designated cohort location on the field. Please note that all playground structures are closed during school hours (7:00 am – 6:00 pm). Due to the fact that we cannot guarantee that the students will stay socially distanced while playing, masks will be required during this time.
In the case that Nutrition Break needs to be inside, students will be asked to stay inside for the entire Nutrition Break – eating for half the break, and staying in their seats doing quiet activities for the other half (with masks on).
Proper hand hygiene (washing of hands, use of hand sanitizer) will occur prior to the students eating their lunch, after eating their lunch, and when they come back into the school. If parents choose to have a small, UNSCENTED bottle of hand sanitizer in their child’s lunchbag, this would be fine, but staff will be equipped with hand sanitizer for students at all times. Whenever possible, we will be promoting and encouraging hand washing over hand sanitizing, and we are extremely fortunate that every classroom in our school is equipped with a working sink, soap and paper towel dispenser.
In terms of lunches, we ask that you send food items in easy-to-open containers or packaging, that is clearly labelled, and we will be asking that students have a “boomerang” lunch, where they bring home any garbage they may create. We are restricting the use of recycling and green bins at this time.
While a student is eating, their masks will obviously need to come off. The best recommendation from public health is that a mask is stored in a paper bag when it is not in use, so including one of these (labelled with your child’s name) in your child’s lunch bag is a good idea. A second, but not as highly recommended option, is the use of a ziploc bag to hold the mask while students are eating. Another thing you may want to consider is including a small tea-towel for the student to lay out on either the grass or their desk when they are eating.
Masks, Mask Breaks & Outdoor Learning
Masks from home are absolutely permitted – we suggest you send at least 2/day with your child, so that they can switch out for a clean one part-way through the day (perhaps consider sending two labelled ziploc bags – for clean and dirty masks). If a mask becomes soiled and they do not have a back-up, or if a mask is lost, broken or forgotten, we do have a limited supply of extra masks at school. In addition, each student will receive 5 reusable black cotton masks to keep – these can be washed and re-used. If you do not need these masks, please let your child’s teacher know, and we will add them back into our inventory of extra masks to give to students when needed. Where possible, please label your child’s masks clearly with their name.
We are fortunate at Smithson to have a very large yard and a small population of students – many other schools are certainly not as lucky. Staff will be able to take their students outside throughout the day for outdoor learning and, if students are maintaining social distancing, then masks can come off. These mask breaks will hopefully occur more than once throughout the day, weather permitting. As stated in a previous message, it will be important for students to dress appropriately for the weather (rain or shine, in layers) so that we can provide them with these opportunities for a mask break.
Shared Equipment and other Learning Tools
At this time, the use of shared P.E. equipment (soccer balls, basketballs, hula hoops, etc.) are not allowed, as well as the use of shared musical instruments. Our staff are innovative and collaborative, and will have many great ideas about how to incorporate physical education, music and visual arts in ways that limit or eliminate the use of shared materials. In the case of shared items such as math learning tools, staff will be either creating small bins of items for each student or will be equipped with cleaning supplies to use after a student has used an item and before another student will use that same item. The shared use of technology will also be limited, and we will be working hard to get as close to a 1:1 device ratio as possible. Technology will also be cleaned between use by different students.
While small bins of individual supplies (pens, pencils, markers, crayons, etc.) will be available for students, if your child chooses to bring a pencil case (preferably a small plastic tote or something wipeable) they may do so. It MUSTremain at school though, and will be kept inside their desk.
We are asking that NO TOYS or OUTDOOR EQUIPMENT be brought to school at this time. We are trying to limit the amount of “things” that come to school with a student each day.
At this time, we are also asking that indoor shoes NOT be sent to school, and that for our younger students, a change (or two) of clothes is sent along on the first day in a clearly marked Ziploc bag. Backpacks will be brought into the classroom (for our gr. 1-6 students) and hung on chairs. Coats, sweaters, etc. will be hung up outside on our hooks.
Books and Paper Materials
We will be attempting to reduce the amount of paper materials that circulate through the building, but paper learning materials, displays, etc. will certainly be used and created by staff and students – we will be practicing diligent hand hygiene when handing out and collecting paper from our students.
In the case of the office – any paperwork that is sent to the office from home will be put in a “holding bin” for 72 hours before being processed. Again, diligent hand hygiene by the office staff is expected as they prepare paperwork to go home to you, out to staff or out to students.
Books will still be available for students at school – what is a school without books!?! However, how we get those books into a student’s hands will look a bit different this year, and each child’s teacher will approach this in a slightly different way, including the use of online books through our LLC (Library Learning Commons) or other reading apps that you may have seen during remote learning in the spring. Books that go home and then come back or are kept in a student’s “browsing bin” at school will go into a 7-day “holding bin” before being put back into circulation.
Planners will NOT be used this year. Communication between school and home will continue, but through alternate means (email, phone calls, School Day, Google Classroom, SeeSaw, etc.). It is critical that all parents are connected to School Day, as this is our primary method of communication to families, and how many necessary forms will be “collected” this year.
At this time, we are still determining the best method for having students access home reading or levelled reading books. Stay tuned.
The library will be opening on a staggered schedule as well – stay tuned for a note about library specifics from our lovely librarian, Mrs. Wright.
Use of Shared Spaces
At this time, the use of the gym will be restricted to our Ext. Day and Kindi friends on inclement weather days, as their classrooms need to be cleaned by the custodian between Ext. Day and the beginning of the regular school day. Our ACE classes will also have access to the gym. Other classes will have limited access to the gym – outdoor learning and physical education in the great outdoors will be encouraged.
The library space will also be closed to students for the time being. Again, look for communication from our librarian, Mrs. Wright – coming in a School Day message soon.
Students requiring special education support from our special education teachers, EAs and CYW (i.e. small group reading intervention, social skills groups, math support) will still be able to receive this support – in class as much as possible, but in our resource rooms as well. We look forward to supporting all of our learners, and know that this small-group support will be necessary for some of our students.
Pizza Days, Field Trips, Popcorn, Assemblies, etc.
All of these items and activities are currently on hold.
I hope that this lengthy memo helps to re-assure you that many hours of thought and planning has gone into a safe re-opening of Smithson, and all our WRDSB schools, to our students and the wider Smithson community – not just by our staff, but by the entire WRDSB team. I am sure there are further questions that you may have, and again refer you to the FAQ page as your first step in looking for an answer. Please reach out to me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will do my best to respond in a timely manner.
Look for the next installment – Return to School – Part 4 – in the next day or so. In this message I will share a little bit about Extended Day, and anything else important that I may have missed here, including the classroom cohort locations / meeting spots for Monday, Sept. 14th.
Thank you, as always, for your continued support of our hard-working staff, and for helping your child get ready for their return to school.