Tuesday, September 8, 2020.

Dear Cougar families,

With the beginning of a new school year just around the corner, we appreciate that each one of you is likely feeling a range of emotions and for a variety of reasons. None of us have been here before. We find ourselves living within the COVID-19 pandemic and we will be reopening our school for the first time since March.

I want to be honest with you: school is going to look and feel different, and the way that students learn and play will not reflect the experience that they grew familiar with in previous years. We hope that our students are excited to get back into the classroom to connect with their teacher, friends and fellow classmates. We are very much looking forward to seeing them too!

The health, safety and well-being of our students, staff and Chalmers’ community will continue to be our number one priority. Beginning from their very first morning back at school, students will learn a new routine for arrival and dismissal, nutrition breaks, how to travel safely through our hallways and within their classroom, as well as the importance of following the preventative measures that have been put in place to ensure that our school continues to be a welcoming and enjoyable space for everyone.

The Chalmers’ team has been working hard to get our school ready for the return of students, and some of our key actions have included:

  • Hand sanitizer dispensers installed at entry/exit doors
  • Wayfinding arrows and signage to assist students in travelling through the school
  • Occupancy limits in shared spaces
  • Classrooms have been decluttered and desks have been arranged to maximize social distancing
  • A washroom schedule has been developed to support hand washing/bathroom use prior to each nutrition break
  • Students will hang their coat and school bag on the back of their classroom chair (with the exception of Kindergarten students)
  • Learning materials will not be shared between students unless properly disinfected prior to use
  • Appropriate PPE will be worn by staff at all times
  • Outdoor learning opportunities will be encouraged

In preparation for your child’s return to Chalmers, please take a moment to check out the “Day in the Life” resource linked below:

Day in the Life: Elementary

I recognize how much information we all have to understand and adjust to in an effort to prepare our children for school in the best way possible. Practising “mask wearing” at home and coaching your child on new school routines and the importance of handing washing and social distancing will be very beneficial to supporting a positive transition back to school.

Students will be asked to only bring essential school items with them each day. For example, their school bag, lunch bag, refillable water bottle, jacket, any personal school materials (i.e., pencil case), and one pair of shoes. To begin the school year, we ask that students do not bring an extra pair of shoes, and all non-essential belongings (e.g., toys, sports equipment) must stay at home. If you wish, students may bring their own scent-free personal hand sanitizer. 

All WRDSB students will be required to wear a mask while at school (JK-6 at Chalmers). Exceptions will only be considered through the appropriate medical documentation. Students who arrive without a mask will be provided one by the school. Each child has been allocated five masks and these will be given to the child as required. This non-medical cloth mask can be brought home for proper cleaning in preparation for the next school day. Our nutrition breaks this year will be staggered with a portion of classes heading outside for the first twenty minutes, and when they return inside to eat their snacks/lunch, the second shift will move outside. Students will be required to wear their mask while outside for nutrition breaks. We understand the value of “mask breaks” for children; however, we are going to offer students this opportunity in a more controlled context (e.g., when their teacher takes them outside to play and learn during the instructional day). Students will also be allowed to take their mask off while eating their snacks/lunch at their assigned desk. Students will remain with their cohort (i.e., their class) throughout the school day, including nutrition breaks and during staggered arrival and dismissal.

When arriving on school property, students must be wearing their mask and they will proceed to their designated area. A visual map will be provided that will illustrate where each class will begin and end their day. We ask that only one parent/guardian or caregiver enters our back playing area to ensure that we avoid congestion and overcrowding. Parents/guardians and caregivers are also kindly asked to wear a mask.

While morning supervision begins at 9:05am (just like it has in the past), we are asking students to arrive closer to 9:20am as they will be waiting in their designated area and not freely roaming around as they are accustomed to. Beginning at 9:20am, classroom teachers will lead students inside the school. Similarly, staggered dismissal will also be the process that is followed at the end of the day from the same designated area. A map that identifies the entry and exit doors for each class will also be provided before the first day of school.

Each day before school, please complete the Daily Student Screening Checklist. If your child is showing any symptoms please keep them at home and notify the school accordingly. Similarly, parents will be notified immediately in the event that their child develops symptoms over the course of the school day (at which time they will be sent home and parents will be instructed to follow-up with the Region of Waterloo Public Health).

Students who arrive late for school will continue to come to the main doors and parents will use the intercom to buzz the office. Please stand in the waiting area marked on the front walkway to ensure social distancing. Students will be welcomed into the school and escorted to class after we have a brief conversation with their caregiver. No parents or visitors will be permitted into the school: this is a practice that is being followed board-wide. A similar process will be followed for students who are required to leave early for appointments or who are not feeling well.

Please also take a moment to ensure that you are familiar with our staggered beginning to the 2020-21 school year: Elementary In-Person Staggered Start. There will be no students attending school on Tuesday, September 8 or Wednesday, September 9th.

Rest assured we will have several more updates to share in the coming days. There has been no shortage of “happenings” on this end and we are working very hard as a school team to get Chalmers ready in the best way possible for the return of our students. Families will be provided with access to School-Day on Friday, September 11th at which time they will find out the name of their child’s teacher. Information will be communicated directly to families next week who have children beginning in Junior Kindergarten. A Caregiver’s Guide to Setting the Stage for Return to School has also been created by WRDSB.

They are many things that I love about our school and community. Perhaps our most defining attribute is the kindness, compassion and understanding that is so often revealed through student actions, parent involvement, and the positive relationships that have been established. Now more than ever, our approach must be collective, and it will be teamwork and humility that drive us forward. We have awesome students! We have awesome parents and volunteers! We have an awesome staff!

I am grateful for the opportunity to begin the 2020-21 school year in tandem with you, 

Jeff Johnson, Principal

#Teamwork #Humility #CougarPride