2020.2021 Health and Safety Measures

[This is the body of the August 7 “Info Update from Lyonsgate: Health and Safety + Calendar” email sent to all Lyonsgate families]

Hello Lyonsgate Families,

It’s been nice to get a break from the heat this week, and some rain. Hope all of your gardens survived and you’ve been able to safely enjoy some much needed sunshine with your wonderful children. This week, we have information about the health and safety measures that will be in place at both Lyonsgate campuses in September, and the 2020.2021 school year calendar.

Each of these information emails will also be published on lyonsgate.ca and can be accessed via the Home page or in the “Updates & Announcements” section under your “Parents” tab.

Next week, we will have your children’s cohorts (which class they will be in) and detailed schedules. Please note: the cohorts have been finalized three times so far this summer, and then the rules changed. It’s frustrating for all of you, we know, but it is also understandable in the midst of an evolving global pandemic. We have cohorts ready to go right now but we still have not received the legislation and operational guideline documents from the Ministry of Education and Hamilton Public Health based on last week’s school re-opening announcements. Once we receive those we can ensure we are in, or preferably above and beyond, compliance and can finalize the cohorts and scheduling.

The only issue will be if there are significant changes or surprises in those documents, which we are not expecting there to be at this point (this has been made very clear to the Ministry by us and many, many other schools). In July, we were promised we would have the details of the “September Plan” by the first week of August; it is presently 4:30 p.m. on Friday, August 7…

On to this week!

School Calendar

You can view the 2020.2021 school year calendar on the Lyonsgate website at https://lyonsgate.ca/lyonsgate-calendar/

Right now the calendar includes all of the PD/PA days, statutory holidays, winter and March Break dates, and term start and end dates. There is one significant change this year — we will be having a two-week March Break (instead of the usual one-week with the preceding Friday and following Monday off). This aligns us with other private schools. A couple of PD days have been removed and the school year extends one week later into June, so the number of school days remains the same. Things like Parent Orientation and Education events will be added as we progress into the school year.

Health and Safety Measures

As you can imagine, there are a significant number of health and safety measures in place for this year. They are presented here to follow the course of what will be a typical day for this atypical school year.

Staggered Starts: Both campuses will have staggered start times for specific sets of students, based on things like indicated drop-off/pick-up preferences, siblings, and reduction of congestion. Also, staggered start times are required to allow for mandated daily screening.

Daily Screening: Every family will have to go through a required screening process every day. Some of you may be familiar with screening procedures from places like doctor’s offices, and ours will be very similar. Parents will have to respond to a set of questions each day and the child’s temperature taken before they can be permitted to attend school. We will attempt to make this as efficient as possible by using an online form that you can use to answer the screening questions from home each morning before you arrive at school so that we can confirm and log your answers and will simply need to check each child’s temperature at entry. Screening staff (Hilary/Ms. Mattar at Primary and Jason at Elementary) are required to wear full PPE during this process, so you might want to prepare your child for this. We are looking to create short videos to share the week before school starts so you and your children can see the process in action and what it (and we) will look like.

Masks: As of last week’s announcements, all staff at both campuses are required to wear surgical/procedure masks at all times throughout the school day. Elementary children in year 4 and up are also required to wear masks, but they can be the cloth type. Elementary children in year 3 and below, and Casa and Toddler children, are not required to wear masks but it is recommended if they are able to do so and you wish them to.

Classrooms: Each classroom will become a “cohort.” The Ministry, and us, and you, we’re sure, recognize that physical distancing will not always be possible in a classroom setting which is why “Screening, Cleaning, and Cohorting” are critical. That said, each classroom is being re-arranged to encourage physical distancing by removing anything that is not essential to Montessori education (for example, small couches for communal reading areas) and by separating and spacing the available work areas so that distancing becomes natural and not enforced. There will be no large group gathering or singing activities. As weather allows we will also keep all windows open in each classroom for fresh air ventilation.

Cohorts: Once in their classroom/cohort, children will not interact with children or staff in the other classrooms/cohorts. Each cohort will have a separate recess. There will be a need for other staff to enter the classrooms at times (to deliver food, to cover breaks, or deliver educational services, for example); these staff members are required to wear full PPE.

Snacks: We will have scheduled group snacks this year with each child served an individual snack (no buffet style). Children are also required to have their own personal, labeled water bottle that they must bring to and from school, pre-filled, each day (water for re-fills will of course be available). [Note on labeling: we always ask, but this year it will be very important to please make sure EVERYTHING is labeled with the child’s name].

Lunch: Similar to snack, children will be served individual lunch portions at a scheduled time in their classrooms. Elementary children will continue to bring lunch from home. There will be no Friday Community Lunches at Elementary this year. Public Health has asked us to emphasize that children should be able to be self-sufficient with any food brought from home in terms of packaging and preparation so that it does not need to be handled by staff, as much as possible.

Cleaning and Disinfecting: At the Primary level, where hand and personal hygiene is more of a challenge for children (they will be guided to significantly increase hand washing and shown how to do so properly), materials will be disinfected after each use before being returned to the shelf. Each Primary cohort will have a dedicated staff member to perform this duty. Porous items and other hard to clean materials such as sponges and aprons will be removed, as will higher risk materials such as Montessori Smelling and Tasting Bottles. At the Elementary level, children will be expected and guided to perform proper hand hygiene before and after using any material, and hard to clean or high risk materials will also be removed.

Each classroom and all washrooms at both campuses will be cleaned and disinfected by staff at mid-day when the children are not present in the environment (during individual cohort recess times), and again by staff at the end of each school day. Each evening, both campuses will be cleaned and disinfected by a contracted professional cleaning service that will include disinfectant fogging to reach all areas.

Staggered Dismissal: At the end of each day, each cohort will have a specific dismissal period to avoid congestion and cross-cohort interaction. These dismissal periods tie-in to the staggered arrival times — ie. if you start earlier in the morning, you will be ending earlier in the afternoon. Unfortunately, to preserve the integrity of the cohorts there cannot be separate After or Extended Care at the Primary campus this year.

We know these weekly updates contain a lot of information, which is one of the reasons we are breaking them up; the other reason is that we cannot finalize some things until legislation and operational guidelines are received, as we mentioned at the top. Following the Cohorts and Schedules information next week you can expect information on what at-home support will look like in cases of extended absence or closures, followed by publication of all of the required policy and procedure documents that contain specific operational details, and finally a series of videos and photos to help you and your children prepare for what school will look like when they return, starting on September 8.

Thank you, and as always please continue to follow all public health guidelines for the health and safety of your family, and the wider community, so that we can all participate in a full and safe 2020.2021 school year.