2021-22 Return to School

Last updated: August 19, 2021

For the 2021-22 school year, Elmwood will continue to focus on supporting the health, safety and well-being of students, families and staff. The return-to-school plan may be adjusted based on key public health and health care data and as always, Elmwood will be 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

The Junior School will return to full in-person learning and 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, such as French teachers, education support staff will be permitted to go into classrooms.  All staff will be required to wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) whilst inside the building.

The schedule for the Junior School can be found here.

Middle/Senior School

The Middle/Senior School students will also return to full in-person learning. The students will 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. 

The Middle Senior School schedule can be found here.

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.

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 our screening tool based on the requirements set out by Ottawa Public Health. To ensure we provide the most up-to-date tool, this will be available for families as we approach the start of 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.  This may include seeking appropriate medical attention as required and/or getting tested for COVID-19.

We will continue welcoming students to the school each day, asking if they have completed the screening tool.  If they have not, they will have the opportunity to do so before they enter the school.

As the year progresses, this may change depending on the guidance from Ottawa Public Health. It is important that any staff, student, or visitor that does not pass the screening procedures not attend school and seek further guidance from Ottawa Public Health. 

At any time, if you have a specific question please feel free to email health@elmwood.ca

Student Masks

Students in Grades 1 to 12 are required to wear properly fitted non-medical or cloth masks indoors in school, including in hallways, during classes and in shared vehicles. Masks may be temporarily removed indoors for the following activities, with a minimum distance of two metres maintained between cohorts and as much distancing as possible within a cohort to:

  • engaging in physical activity
  • singing 
  • playing some musical instruments within the curriculum
  • consume food or drink

Students are not required to wear masks outdoors, but distancing will be encouraged between cohorts.

Students in kindergarten are encouraged but not required to wear non-medical or cloth 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 masks when in areas that students occupy. Staff are not required to wear masks while outdoors.

Uniform Requirements

For the start of the school year, students are only required to have the Summer and the Athletic Uniforms. Complete uniform guidelines can be found here.

Any additional uniform requirements will be communicated once the school year is underway.  Students will be given ample time to purchase the required pieces. Uniforms, accessories and spiritwear can be purchased through the online store.

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.

Outbreak Management

On August 11, 2021, the Ministry of Health released updated guidance on school case, contact and outbreak management linked here We are sharing the original document from the Ministry with you as it contains useful information. It should be noted however that Ottawa Public Health is reviewing this document and will adopt its own protocols based on this guide which is still to be released.
This guidance provides information to support the management of cases, outbreaks and suspected outbreaks associated with elementary or secondary (K-12) school settings. Key updates for the 2021-22 school year include:

  • Those that are fully immunized and asymptomatic will not be required to isolate after contact with a confirmed or probable case and will also not be required to isolate if they are in the same household as a symptomatic individual.
  • High-risk contacts of a case are to isolate for 10 days, unless they are fully immunized or if they were previously positive within the past 90 days and have since been cleared.
  • For high-risk contacts who are not fully immunized or who were previously positive within the past 90 days and have since been cleared, testing is recommended on or after day 7 of their isolation period. If a test is collected before day 7, a repeat test on or after day 7 is recommended.
  • For high-risk contacts who are fully immunized or who were previously positive within the past 90 days, testing is to be recommended immediately upon notification of exposure.
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, assembly spaces, and study areas are also 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.

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 whilst eating.

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.


We are excited that school assemblies are permitted and will be able to include multiple cohorts. The size of the assembly will be determined by the space used. The current requirements allow us to occupy a space at 50% of its capacity including spacing of students. We will aim to have more assemblies in-person this year but will also continue to have weekly virtual assemblies to reduce risks.


Where it is absolutely necessary, we are able to have occasional visitors, including parents, come into the school.  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. These programs will differ in the Junior School and Middle Senior school as the curriculum allows

For the Middle/Senior School the use of wind instruments is permitted indoors within a cohort if a minimum distance of two metres or more can be maintained. For these situations, a well-ventilated space will be used.

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.

All activities are permitted indoors and masking will be dependent on the activity and the caveat that distancing can be maintained.

For after school sporting clubs or activities students will be able to mix cohorts

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.