Return to School 2021-22

Last updated: JANUARY 12, 2022

Elmwood continues to focus on supporting the health, safety and well-being of students, families and staff. Our return-to-school plan is adjusted based on key public health and health care data, and, as always, we are prepared to pivot as required to ensure the safety of its community.  Elmwood will continue to work within the guidance of the Chief Medical Officer of Health and the Ottawa Public Health unit.

Junior School

When engaged in in-person learning, the students will be placed in one grade cohort and remain in that cohort for the full day. Cohorted classes will stay together and with their teacher. Members of different cohorts will be able to interact outside, with distancing being monitored closely. Specialized education staff and teachers will be permitted to go into classrooms.  Students from Grade 1 to 5 are required to wear masks.  The purpose of a mask is to block respiratory droplets travelling in more-or-less a straight line. Three-layered masks (tightly woven cloth inside and outside, and a third middle layer acting as an added line of defence, such as non-woven polypropylene fabric in between) fitting snuggly without gapping will block respiratory droplets reasonably well and help limit the spread of COVID-19.  While not mandated, students in kindergarten are strongly encouraged to wear masks.   

Middle/Senior School

When engaged in in-person learning, Middle and Senior School students will also be in one cohort or grade and remain in that group for the full day except during recess and lunch. It should be noted that our cohorts are far smaller than the provincially recommended number to best support contact tracing should that be required. In some cases, in our Senior School, some smaller classes include combined grades (e.g. Grade 11-12 Music). As any of our combined Grade 11 and 12 classes are still smaller than the recommended cohort size, we will continue to offer these combined classes. Members of different cohorts/grades will be able to interact outside with distancing or inside with distancing and masking.  According to the latest public health recommendations, masks should be 3-ply and fit snuggly.

At-Home Learning

At-Home Learning will once again remain an option for this school year. At-Home Learning will have the students join the class virtually using Google Meet and will be organized by each teacher. We are asking that parents sign-up for this opportunity in advance by emailing the relevant Deputy Head of School– Mrs. Blackadar for the Junior School and Ms. Enticknap for the Middle/Senior school. 

To ensure the teachers can effectively plan for students we are asking for a minimum commitment of 4 weeks. If a student is required to self-isolate or has a medical condition that requires them to be away from school then we will certainly allow them to join the program for less than the requested time period. 
If students are sick we encourage them to rest and take a break from learning as they would have previously done. If we are forced to close due to a provincial shutdown, At-Home Learning will operate for all students.

Exceptions to the above in terms of notification (1-week) and commitment (minimum 4-weeks) will be made for students who are impacted by COVID isolation and quarantine requirements, provided they are healthy enoough to attend school.  Please contact the appropriate Deputy Head.

Protective Strategies

As we know there is not one specific measure that will prevent transmission from occurring in schools, but rather there are multiple structural and individual elements that contribute to making schools healthy spaces and reduce the risk of infection. The control measures listed below have been mandated by the province. Each measure provides some benefit in reducing spread. However, it is the combination and consistent application of these layered controls as a bundle that is most effective for reducing disease spread in schools.

Daily Screening

All staff and students throughout the school must self-screen every day before attending school using one of the following: Junior School or Middle Senior School

All staff and students experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19 as identified in the screening tool must not attend school and should follow the guidance provided by Ottawa Public Health.  

At any time, if you have a specific question please feel free to email

Student Masks

Students in Grades 1 to 12 must wear a mask indoors in school, including in hallways, during classes and in shared vehicles. The purpose of a mask is to block respiratory droplets travelling in more-or-less a straight line. Three-layered masks (tightly woven cloth inside and outside, and a third middle layer acting as an added line of defence, such as non-woven polypropylene fabric in between) fitting snuggly without gapping will block respiratory droplets reasonably well and help limit the spread of COVID-19.  The school is able to provide 3-ply medical masks to students who require them.

Masks may be temporarily removed indoors for specific activities (i.e. consuming food or drink) but distancing will be enforced.  Students are not required to wear masks outdoors, but distancing will be monitored between cohorts.

Students in kindergarten are encouraged but not required to wear masks in indoor spaces.

Mask Exceptions

If there is a medical reason whereby your child cannot wear a mask, please contact your Deputy Head of School to discuss how we can best accommodate their learning at the school. 

Staff personal protective equipment (PPE)

Our staff will continue to wear PPE, including medical and N95 masks, when in students areas. OPH strongly recommends staff wear masks while outdoors if engaging in activities like outside duties, walking students off-campus for gym etc. 

Hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette

Appropriate hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette are among the most important protective strategies. 
Hand hygiene will be conducted by anyone entering the school and incorporated into the daily schedule for the students at regular intervals during the day, above and beyond what is usually recommended (for example, before eating food, after using the washroom).

Below are reminders for our community and will be used throughout the school day;

  • Soap and water are preferred as the most effective method and least likely to cause harm if accidentally ingested.
  • Alcohol-based hand rub (ABHR) can be used by children. It is most effective when hands are not visibly soiled.
  • Students should cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when they cough or sneeze. Tissues will be placed in the wastebaskets provided.

Staff and students will have the supplies they need to conduct appropriate hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette in each space in the school and these supplies will be easily accessible.
Alcohol-based hand rub (ABHR) with a minimum 60% alcohol concentration will be available throughout the school, including at the entry point to each classroom. Please refer to Public Health Ontario’s how to wash your hands (PDF) fact sheet.

Distancing and congregating

As much distancing as possible between students, between students and staff and between staff members will always be promoted. Physical distancing measures will be layered with other public health measures such as screening, hand hygiene, cohorting, enhanced cleaning and masking.

In line with provincial direction, unnecessary furniture has been removed and classroom desks have been placed with as much distancing as possible. Desks will continue to face forward rather than in circles or groupings.

Periods of student movement will be staggered during the day to limit student congregation in the hallways.

Congregation of teachers/staff will also be limited to minimize the potential for adult-to-adult transmission.

Case and contact management

Elmwood will continue to follow the guidance of Ottawa Public Health in managing cases and contacts. Updated direction has been provided by the province, specific to the Omicron surge. It is important to note that individuals only exposed at school with all public health measures in place are not generally considered high-risk contacts. That said, we will continue to notify both cohorts and close contacts of any positive cases. If identified as a high-risk contact, vaccinated asymptomatic students and those under the age of 11 do not need to isolate but should monitor for symptoms for 10 days.

School arrival and departure and signage

In the short term during the main arrival and departure times (8.00-8.20am and 3.00-3.50pm) students will enter and depart the buildings in the following ways:

Kindergarten students should head to the fenced kindergarten yard between 8:00 and 9:00 am. Junior Kindergarten and Senior Kindergarten students should head to the back of the school yard between 8:00 and 9:00 am for supervised play outside. 

Junior School students from Grades 1 and 2 will continue to use the main entrance and front stairwell when they arrive between 8:00 and 8:20 am. 

Students in Grades 3 to 5 will use the back stairwell. Students will be greeted on arrival and supported with entrance to the building. We will continue this protocol for the first two weeks of school. We will then evaluate whether to begin playing outside from 8:00 to 8:20 am once the students are settled into their routines. Using both stairwells will continue throughout the day and at recess times.

Grade 6-9 students will use the main entrance to the Middle/Senior building which has reception attached to it. 

Grades 10-12 will enter using the entrance at the front of the school next to the school library. 

Visual cues and physical guides, such as tape and signs on the floors and signs/posters on walls will help students during the school day.

Hand sanitizer will be available at all school entrances and must be used by students, staff and visitors as they enter and exit. Sanitizer will also be at each classroom entrance for use by students entering and exiting the classrooms.

Recess and breaks outdoors

Students do not need to stay within their cohort during recess and breaks outdoors where distancing can be maintained. We may make exceptions to this for different ages of students to help manage contact tracing.

Cleaning and disinfection

We have a comprehensive cleaning program in place at the school which goes beyond what is required by the province. Over the summer, we have reviewed our existing practices to determine where enhancements might be made, including the frequency and timing of cleaning and disinfection, areas to clean and/or disinfect, choice of cleaning products, child safety, staffing, signage, and PPE for cleaning staff. With this reviewed our school will continue with Deep Cleaning protocols each day after the students have left for the day. Each classroom and classroom desk will be cleaned between each learning period. 

In order to reduce the risk of infection related to high touch surfaces, cleaning and disinfection will occur three times per day. This will include washrooms (for example, toilet fixtures, faucets), eating areas (for example, tables, sinks, countertops), doorknobs, light switches, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, touch screens, pushbuttons, handrails, computers, photocopiers, and sports equipment.

Shared materials

It has been determined by the provincial medical experts that the risk associated with transmission with shared objects is low but we are being cautious to avoid increased close contacts for students so these items will be limited and subject to enhanced cleaning protocols. 

The focus will be on regular hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette to reduce the risk of infection related to shared equipment, particularly when regular cleaning of shared objects is not feasible.

Shared spaces

Shared spaces such as libraries and study areas are permitted. Use of lockers/cubbies are also permitted but we will have some modifications for these when the students arrive. When different cohorts interact in shared indoor spaces, masking and as much distancing as possible will be maintained between cohorts. Shared indoor spaces are by grade  cohort, for Middle School (Grade 6-8), Grades 9 and 10 and, Grades 11 and 12. 

Cafeteria use and lunch protocols

Our lunch protocols are able to start returning to normal with some modifications. Junior School students will continue to eat in their classrooms and will be able to remove their masks whilst eating with distancing in place. Middle/Senior students will be able to eat in assigned spaces throughout the school, including outdoors weather permitting. A schedule will be set for each Grade to ensure safe distancing is in place. Masks can be removed during the physical acts of eating and drinking. The duration of the mask removal should be minimized as much as possible. 

We will be resuming our À la carte/Grad N’ Go food services this year.

Each student is encouraged to bring their own drink bottle that is labelled– kept with them during the day and not shared.

The use of shared microwaves/kitchen space is once again permitted.


Assemblies continue to be weekly virtual assemblies to reduce risks.


Where it is absolutely necessary, we are able to have occasional visitors, including parents, come into the school for essential purposes only.  CIS has said that anyone coming onto the school premises must self screen, and provide proof of vaccination with  ID. An advance appointment with the member of staff being visited will be required. Visitors will need to complete the self-screen using the school tool and to wear a medical mask while on the school premises. A medical mask will be provided by the school if needed. All self-screening will need to be verified by the front office before a visitor enters the school property. Complete restrictions on visitors have been eased but we are being asked to limit visitors to the site as much as possible.


We will continue optimizing air quality in classrooms and learning environments through improving our ventilation systems. Ventilation is a key element in the multiple protective strategies to support healthy and safe learning environments for students and staff.

Over the summer, we had all ventilation systems inspected to ensure that they are in good working order and throughout the year we will:

  • continue to use the highest-grade filters (MERV 13 filters) possible
  • continue to undertake frequent filter changes through the school year
  • continue to operate our ventilation systems 2 hours or more before and after school occupancy
  • continue to calibrate our HVAC systems for maximum airflow and increased fresh air intake

In addition to these measures each learning space also has been fitted with Surgically Clean Air purification units. These units utilize multi-stage air purifying technologies that work together to clean, purify and re-energize the indoor air. The multi-stage filtration system captures dust particles, pollen, volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), mould, allergens, viruses, odours (like formaldehyde and smoke), bio-aerosols, nitrous oxide, and many other pollutants that are found in the inside air in workplaces and residences. These units were used last year and proved to be incredibly effective in keeping our school safe. Finally, we will continue to maximize outdoor education where possible and keep windows open to support ventilation for classrooms and learning environments.


Vaccination is an important tool to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and allow students, families, and staff to safely resume normal activities. Vaccination rates may provide opportunities to reduce measures over time. We are working closely with our local public health units to support families and, as per the most recent provincial direction, all Elmwood staff is required to be fully vaccinated.

At this point, vaccination has not been made mandatory by the province for students but we are strongly recommending this to all of our eligible families as it will support our ability to provide more opportunities and services. In the coming weeks we will be asking for a voluntary and confidential disclosure from those students who are vaccinated as this will support our ability to manage return to school plans for students should a case emerge. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccines for youth.

Mental health

Student mental health and well-being is a top priority for our school and students, as good mental health is fundamental to a student’s ability to learn and to succeed at school and in life.

We will continue to provide support to all students and to provide help to those who have been most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our own school nurse and Student Success team work closely with families to support each student. We will also continue to collaborate with child and youth mental health agencies to support strong connections for students requiring more intensive support. This will ensure the best use of mental health resources and supports are allocated.

A key priority of recovery is to make sure that all children return to school and to encourage a routine that is healthy for all involved.

Throughout the year, our Experts@Elwmood speaker series will have thought-leaders help educate, support and guide our community.

Further student supports are available through Schoology using the following access code: ZPTR-S9N6-8FB2H
If you have any further questions or concerns about mental health support please reach out to our School Nurse and Director of Health, Safety and Wellness, Ms. Francie Marchand.

Music program

Music programs are permitted as are singing and the use of wind instruments. For indoors: masked singing, must be cohorted and physically distanced. For outdoors: singing is permitted with physical distancing between cohorts, masks if distancing cannot be maintained, wind and brass instruments permitted within a cohort or mixed by physical distancing must be maintained. These programs will differ in the Junior School and Middle Senior school as the curriculum allows

Masking will be encouraged but not required for singing indoors if a minimum distance of two metres can be maintained between cohorts and as much distance as possible maintained within a cohort. If shared, proper sanitization of instruments will occur between use.

Health and physical education

In all health and physical education courses and clubs, the use of our gymnasiums, change rooms, weight rooms, indoor physical education equipment and shared outdoor equipment are permitted with distancing and learning will be organized to manage this. However, we will be slowly integrating these opportunities as we monitor the situation throughout the school.

Masking is not required outdoors for any sports, unless 2 metres distance cannot be maintained. 

Low contact activities are permitted indoors where masks are worn and physical distancing is promoted. 

Team sports and competitions will resume this year but more information is coming regarding how this will be managed. 

Field trips

Day trips will be permitted within cohorts and will meet all safety protocols required for the destination. We are reviewing the possibilities of overnight trips. While we will not hold any overnight trips in September, these trips are being considered for Middle and Senior School students as possible options later in the year and more information will be made available.

Literacy and community involvement graduation requirements

The literacy graduation requirement is once again waived for students graduating in the 2021- 22 school year.

The literacy graduation requirement will be restored for students graduating in the 2022-23 school year. 

The community involvement graduation requirement has been reduced from 40 hours to a minimum of 20 hours of community involvement activities for students graduating in the 2021-22 school year. The community involvement graduation requirement of 40 hours will be restored in 2022-23. As always Elmwood students always far exceed the required number of hours for this.

Co-Curriculars and clubs

We are delighted that clubs, activities, sports teams and extracurriculars are permitted with some modifications. In some cases, where possible, Cohorts may interact outdoors with physical distancing, and indoors  with masking and appropriate physical distancing.

Our Co-Curricular offerings for the start of the year will be made available early in September with sign up to follow later in the month. 

International Students

Elmwood School has been approved to provide in-person teaching to a person who holds a study permit issued under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (Canada).

Due to COVID-19 Elmwood was required to submit a plan for arriving International Students respecting COVID-19 which has been approved by the Minister of Education.  Further direction will be shared throughout the year should there be federal or provincial changes regarding international students. You can learn more about requirements from the province for kindergarten to Grade 12 international students here.

Fire Drills

In line with directives from the Office of the Fire Marshal, we will have planned fire drills this year for all students. In collaboration with the Ministry of Education and the Office of the Fire Marshal to support the planning and execution of fire drills at Elmwood School, in compliance with Fire Code requirements and aligned with public health advice related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Practiced fire drills during the COVID-19 pandemic will not be typical in the converging of building occupants in hallways, exits, and at designated meeting areas outside of the school building. Therefore it is critical that when planning for the 2020-2021 school year, procedures for conducting total evacuation fire drills be aligned with physical distancing guidance provided by public health officials.
**It is recognized by all parties that everyone will not be able to evacuate simultaneously, and the total school evacuation time will take longer than usual.**
For clarity, these allowances are only for the purposes of undertaking a total evacuation fire drill and only where needed to ensure compliance with public health guidance. Where a fire alarm sounds outside of the scope of a planned fire drill, the total evacuation shall proceed as per procedures outlined in the approved school Fire Safety plan.
1. HUB/HR Teachers will review these protocols during Homeroom in their Hubs, including:
a. Difference between a total evacuation fire alarm (not scheduled) and the total evacuation drill in accordance with public health guidelines (includes: evacuating single file and distanced, masked, staggered evacuation by classroom, distancing measures once outside)
b. Review practice duties (closing windows and doors)
c. Reassuring students that it is a practice and because of distancing measures, there is no need to panic if you can’t leave the classroom right away
2. All other Staff and Faculty will now be required to line up between the JS and MS/SS ata distance while wearing a mask. This is to ensure easier attendance tracking and to seta positive, reinforced example with students.
Evacuation Procedure:
1. Larger stairwells can be used for evacuation on both sides while maintaining distance and in a single file. Narrow stairwells should only be one line, single file.
2. Individual classrooms will evacuate in a manner that ensures physical distancing and wearing of masks (as required).
3. Classrooms closest to the fire exits will commence the evacuation first; all others will follow when safe distancing can be put in place (this might mean waiting a minute).
4. The use of all possible exits is encouraged. Each building already has this predetermined.
5. Once the class has safely evacuated the building, staff and students will walk to the field and line up by HUB GRADE at a distance (full arm’s length apart) and continue to wear a mask.
6. All those required to wear a mask mandated by the Ministry of Education must do so while outside; masks will be provided should someone not have one.
7. HUBS/HR will be dismissed by their Deputy Head to either re-enter the school at the atrium doors or reception doors. JS will re-enter the building through their front doors one class at a time. PREK/JK can re-enter through the play yard.
8. Upon entry into the buildings, staff and students must use hand sanitizer/wash their hands and maintain distance in a single file.