COVID-19 Response

 

This page aims to provide our Montcrest Community with pertinent information in regard to COVID-19. We will continue to provide updates by email and in the Montcrest Mirror.

To maximize the health and safety of all community members, Montcrest is taking a “layered” approach with multiple measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 and its spread. We are focused on the key tenets outlined by medical experts and Ministers of Health. This includes, but is not limited to, physical distancing in classrooms, increased health and safety measures, air quality, ventilation and plenty of time outdoors. In addition, those attending Montcrest will require daily COVID-19 screening and adhere to our vaccination policy.

Montcrest’s focus is on creating a dynamic and safe environment for in-person learning. If the need arrises due to government mandated closures, we will switch to our remote learning model, Montcrest Goes Mobile (MGM).

 

COVID-19 Updates

January 14, 2022 - Return to In-Person Learning Plans

Dear Montcrest parents,

We are looking forward to welcoming the students back to campus for in-person learning on Monday.

We believe our COVID Related Protocols for January 2022 reflect the key messages published in the Ontario Returns to School – An Overview of the Science by the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table. Please see the buttons below that link directly to our plans and the daily screening forms that we will be using.

Please be in contact if you have any questions. Thank you for your ongoing patience, support and understanding. 

Don

 

Don Kawasoe
(he / his / him)
Interim Head of School

January 12, 2022 - COVID-19 & Return to In-Person Learning

Dear Montcrest community members,

At today’s press conference, Education Minister Stephen Lecce confirmed that we will be returning to in-person learning on Monday, January 17th. We’re excited to welcome our students, faculty and staff back to school. We believe our measures reflect the key messages published in the Ontario Returns to School – An Overview of the Science by the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table. To best understand the actions we are taking and the reasons why, we strongly encourage you to read this brief. The following is excerpted directly from the brief.

Public health measures will mitigate Omicron transmission in schools

  • Tailored vaccination strategies, outreach and interventions in communities (e.g., low-income, racialized and Indigenous) where vaccine uptake is lower.
  • Ventilation and filtration in schools through upgraded HVAC systems, or temporary measures including HEPA filters for classrooms and open windows when possible.
  • Physical distancing and cohorting strategies, staying home when sick, symptom and exposure screening, and testing can help reduce transmission in school settings.
  • High-quality, well-fitting masks for students, teachers and staff 

Vaccination

Ventilation

  1. In addition to our existing HVAC systems currently set to pull in maximum fresh air (with indoor air changes of at least 6.5 air changes per hour), we have purchased commercial grade HEPA air filtration units to put in every learning space for Monday.
  2. Protocols are in place to maximize access to fresh air (lunch, outdoor recess, mask breaks)

 

Additional Strategies to Reduce Transmission

1. Programming changes will be implemented to keep cohorts separate and physically distanced including at lunch and recess times. High impact co-curricular activities (basketball and volleyball) are suspended for now. Online co-curricular activities will be offered.

2. Please review the most up to date screening tool that has been provided by TPH and be prepared to use it starting Monday, January 17. 

3. PCR Testing – PCR tests are available at school for symptomatic Montcrest students and staff.

4. Rapid Antigen Screening

  • We have provided rapid antigen screens to students and staff.
  • There is no requirement to use them for Monday. 
  • We understand that while a positive antigen screen is a likely sign of COVID-19, a negative test is not a certainty. Also, screens are most effective when screening happens on a regular basis.
  • We continue to wait for additional screens that have been delayed until mid-February. As of today, we have no information on the availability of screens from the province. When we know we can secure a reliable supply we will advise community members.
  • Families who wish to pick up a screen for their Montcrest children can do so on Thursday, January 13, between 8:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.

5. Masking

  • We are providing N95 masks for all faculty and staff.
  • We are awaiting shipment of N95 children sized masks to provide to students ineligible to be vaccinated and mixed cohorts (Beach Bus and Aftercare).
  • If independent schools have access to the masks provided by the province, we will secure and distribute them as soon as possible. In the meantime parents are encouraged to provide equivalent high quality masks for their children.

We will endeavour to provide the Beach Bus service and Montcrest Aftercare dependent upon our ability to staff these programs. We continue to work on how we will respond to known cases of COVID-19, to individuals who show symptoms and to respond to any circumstance in which staffing of in-person learning is compromised. 

In these most uncertain times, I believe that it is our collective responsibility to support these measures so that we can keep our students at school. The Science Table notes that:

Ontario evidence shows that school closures are associated with substantial mental health and educational attainment harms. These risks are cumulative and are disproportionately experienced among families from marginalized groups.

Thank you for your ongoing patience, support and understanding. We look forward to sharing more details as they become available.

Don

 

Don Kawasoe
(he / his / him)
Interim Head of School

January 4, 2022 - MGM 4.0 Announcement and Guide

Dear Montcrest parents,

We look forward to seeing your children online tomorrow for MGM 4.0 – Montcrest Goes Mobile. While we would certainly prefer to be on campus as a community, we can’t wait to see the students’ smiles online.

Please know that your child’s homeroom teacher continues to be your key point of contact, and they will share your child’s timetable, online links, and other learning details. If you have subject specific questions for your child’s specialty teachers (e.g. French or drama), please use our faculty & staff directory to reach out directly to those teachers.

As a guide for all families, please review our MGM 4.0 Guide – January 2022

Thank you for your ongoing support and partnership in your child’s learning.

January 3, 2022 - Move to MGM - Online Learning

Dear Montcrest community members,

The Premier of Ontario announced the closure of schools until at least Monday, January 17, 2022. The purpose of this action combined with a move to a modified stage 2 closure plan is to stem the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. In response, we are revising our MGM (Montcrest Goes Mobile) protocols from last year and will share this plan with our faculty and staff tomorrow prior to communication to the broader community.

Your homeroom teacher will send you specific details regarding your child’s online learning on Tuesday afternoon. Our MGM online programming will begin Wednesday morning at approximately 8:45am.

If there are any essential items that your child left at Montcrest that you need, please email our Director of Facilities, Greg Reynolds greynolds@montcrest.ca directly. Please include your child’s name, homeroom, and list the items that you require. Once confirmed by email, the items will be placed in a bin in the main entrance of Thomson House (658 Broadview Ave). These items can be picked up during the school day between 9am-3pm.

Details of programming and the adjustments to logistics including: the Beach Bus, Aftercare and the Rose Reisman lunch program will be included in our communications this week. We will hold further distribution of rapid antigen screens for our vulnerable students until we have clarity of when we return to in-person learning.

We fully acknowledge that this is not the way we intended to return in January. Thank you for your ongoing support and understanding through these challenging times.

Don

Don Kawasoe
(he / his / him)
Interim Head of School

 

January 2, 2022 - Head of School Update

Dear Montcrest community members,

Happy New Year!

We are always guided by what we believe to be in the best interests of the safety, well-being and learning of our students, faculty and staff. In our current siuation, the balance is between in-person learning/risk of contracting COVID-19 versus online learning and the extent to which families avoid testing positive. There are data based benefits and drawbacks in each case and I suspect we all fall somewhere along this continuum with many unsure of what to think.

Here’s what we can discern from government and public health websites and our own experience.

  • The extent to which all community members are limiting external contact is an important factor in preventing the spread of COVID-19. We each have a responsibility in preventing transmission as there are limits to what schools can do.
  • If an individual inadvertently contracts COVID-19 and is asymptomatic, there is nothing short of online programming that will keep that positive case out of school.
  • The school has put enhanced protective measures in place to mitigate transmission should an individual come to school in a contagious state. 
  • As previously noted, information shared with us indicates that the one case of school spread may have occurred in one Grade 6 class in which two students might have contracted COVID-19 from a third, initially asymptomatic student, who later tested positive.
  • Given what we know about the highly transmissible nature of the dominant Omicron variant and the rapidity of onset of symptoms, PCR testing of symptomatic individuals and rapid antigen screens will help, but will not ensure we can detect and isolate individuals who are asymptomatic and carrying an infectious viral load.
  • We are currently reviewing the updated version of the COVID-19: School Information for Parents & Caregivers

The Ontario government’s position on in-person learning is clear and is informed by data and research. The Science Table: COVID-19 Advisory website has a wealth of information including updated case data.

The Ontario government’s return to in-person learning position is based upon advice and data presented by the Science Table – COVID-19 Advisory for Ontario and emerging data about the nature of the Omicron variant. I would encourage you to review Ask Ontario’s Science Table . While this slide deck doesn’t specifically address in-person learning it clearly states what you and we can do to mitigate transmission.

Why In-Person Learning and Not a Synchronous Hybrid Model That Supports Students at School and at Home?

  1. Our experience last year demonstrated that student attendance and engagement in learning were all adversely affected in both online and in hybrid learning programs.
  2. Teachers felt strongly that hybrid synchronous learning was extremely difficult because they were not able to address student needs at home and school simultaneously in an effective way. Fully online was more effective, but also difficult.
  3. Based upon our own experience and measures outlined, we feel that additional protective measures will help to mitigate transmission.
  4. The Chief Medical Officer of Health supports the return to in-person learning.
  5. Our current timetable structure will enable teachers to be in touch with their students on a regular basis.
  6. Some schools have classroom video and audio equipment that facilitates synchronous learning. Given our limited resources, we opted to improve student access to technology and continue to upgrade access to fresh air last year and this year.

What Actions Do We Promote for Our Community Members?

As listed on the Ask Ontario’s Science Table slide deck:

  1. Get vaccinated as soon as possible – third vaccination for eligible persons and double vaccination for those 5-18 years of age.
  2. Wear a Good Quality Mask, Keep Physically Distanced 
  3. Breathe Fresh Filtered Air
  4. Postpone or Keep Gatherings Small

What Additional Protective Measures are Being Implemented at Montcrest to Mitigate Spread Based on Information from the Science Table?

Vaccination

  • All faculty and staff are now required to disclose third vaccination
  • Vaccination will be a requirement for school in September 2022 for all those eligible
  • Requesting proof of vaccination for all eligible students 5-11 years of age

Wear a Good Quality Mask

  • All faculty and staff will be required to wear N95 or equivalent masks and face shields when in close contact 
  • Encourage all students to wear a high quality, well fitted mask
  • Physical distancing continues (especially at lunch)
  • Requiring masks outside at recess

Breathe Fresh Filtered Air

  • Encourage open windows whenever possible
  • Twenty-four commercial grade HEPA filter units have been ordered so that each learning space has a unit in addition to existing ventilation systems
  • Ongoing change of filters

Postpone or Keep Gatherings Small

  • Limit size of gatherings – Restructuring all small group mixed cohorts (Clubs and athletics temporarily suspended, reading groups restructured)
  • Essential services (Beach Bus and Montcrest Aftercare) have additional protective measures

Rapid Antigen Screening 

  • To clarify, we recommend that you use the rapid antigen screens distributed prior to the break to screen your child(ren) prior to their return to school. While this doesn’t guarantee that they are free of the virus, it provides another benchmark to consider.
  • If there is an issue with the buffer solution or you were not able to pick up a envelope of 2 screens at the end of term, we will prepare some tomorrow and have them on hand at the entrance to Thomson House. Please do the screen Tuesday. If your child tests positive, kindly keep them at home and follow the steps in COVID-19: School Information for Parents & Caregivers.

Home Screening

  • Note that the symptoms for COVID-19 have changed. It is essential that parents complete this every school day before your child arrives at school.
  • This key protocol helps you confirm that your child is healthy and ready for school and will help minimize the potential for transmission at school.
  • Your co-operation is greatly appreciated so we can spend our time supporting students.

Next Steps

We have been fortunate that a few parents with medical expertise and experience have asked good questions and provided feedback. If you have professional expertise and a willingness to support our thinking, I would be deeply grateful if you stepped forward. 

 There is no right or perfect strategy. Our strategy combines government and public health directives and where we believe necessary, to include additional protective measures. 

  1. We are currently reviewing the recently updated COVID-19: What to Do if You Are a Close Contact and School Information for Parents and Caregivers.
  2. We will assess the responses of parents with students in essential services (Beach Bus and Montcrest Aftercare).

We are committed to doing our best; to consider input and to respond to questions as best we can. We very much appreciate your patience, understanding and your acknowledgement for our efforts to date.

Don

Don Kawasoe
(he / his / him)
Interim Head of School

December 31, 2021 - COVID-19 Protocol Update

Dear Montcrest community members,

We’re keen to welcome students back to school on Wednesday, January 5, 2022. Our professional development day has been rescheduled back to Monday to give teachers and staff time to fine tune our revised COVID-19 protocols and adjust their programming on Tuesday.

Our COVID-19 Response team reviewed our draft return to school plan in light of the Ontario Government’s return to school directives. We also received additional direction from the Private Schools and International Education Unit and the declaration of the end of the outbreak at Montcrest School from Toronto Public Health. 

Our key responses will include:

  • Limiting mixed class cohort groups
  • Restricted student movement between classes and buildings 
  • Additional masking expectations
  • Rapid antigen testing for vulnerable groups 
  • Additional screening for symptoms on site in the morning 
  • Changes to testing and reporting protocols

Further details will be shared Monday after our time with all faculty and staff and with the expectation that we will have further direction from TPH.

Rapid Antigen Screening Before Wednesday
If you have rapid antigen screens, test Saturday and Tuesday. There is no need to report the result, but take a photo of the test with your child’s name and homeroom beside the test cartridge. If you did not receive the 2 screens prior to the break, they will be available at school in Thomson House for at least 1 screen Tuesday. It has been recommended that the initial swab at the back of the tongue be done as far back as possible.

Parents of the Beach Bus and Aftercare
Parents of students who participate in the Beach Bus and Montcrest Aftercare program will receive a proposed plan and short survey on Sunday. Kindly complete it as it will give us direction on how we can best sustain these essential services.

Best wishes for a healthy and safe New Year celebration.

Don

Don Kawasoe
(he / his / him)
Interim Head of School

December 30, 2021 - COVID-19 & Return to Learning Update

Dear Montcrest community members,

Today, the Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health announced a number of changes to the COVID-19 testing protocols and that schools will reopen for in-person learning on Wednesday, January 5, 2022. Our professional development day scheduled for Monday, January 3, will be moved to Tuesday, January 4 and will focus on orientation to our revised protective measures and academic division meetings. Montcrest leadership will confirm our revised protocols and we will share it with our community tomorrow (Friday).

With the shortage of both PCR tests and test capacity and available sources of rapid antigen screen tests, the province has revised their COVID-19 testing protocols. We distributed two rapid antigen screens to all students at school on Wednesday, December 15, to be used prior to the opening of school to confirm a negative test to COVID-19. In the new provincial protocols, rapid antigen screens can now be used to confirm if a symptomatic individual has COVID-19. Further, the new guidelines do not recommend using rapid antigen screens for asymptomatic individuals. Thus, I would recommend that you only use the rapid antigen screen if your child is symptomatic or if you have good reason to believe that your child is exposed to a positive COVID-19 case between now and Wednesday. If you do decide to screen, I would suggest that you do it on Saturday, January 1 and Tuesday, January 4. You should take a photo of the cartridge screen result with the name and homeroom of your child beside it. There is no need to report this result to the school. 

Between now and the opening of school we urge you to:

  • Follow federal guidelines if you have travelled outside of Canada over the winter break.
  • Limit and exercise caution on the number and size of your gatherings so that your children can return to school next Wednesday in a rested and healthy state.
  • Once school starts in-person, we require your commitment to our daily home screen process for your children. The health of our community and our ability to sustain in-person learning requires your compliance. 

If your child will be absent from school on Wednesday, January 5, in compliance with isolation requirements for a current COVID-19 case or international travel, kindly advise attendance@montcrest.ca and your child’s homeroom teacher. We will not be providing synchronous in class and at home programming.

Thank you for your ongoing support and understanding.

Best,

Don

Don Kawasoe
(he / his / him)
Interim Head of School

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