Back-to-school resources: What you need to know for the first week back
KITCHENER -- Waterloo Region's first group of students returned to school on Tuesday, the most normal part of their back-to-school adjustments.
Over the next couple of weeks, the Catholic and public school boards will see a staggered start for students by grades and groups.
Students attending Waterloo Region District School Board schools did not return on Sept. 8, with the board opting to give staff and teachers another day of planning.
So when can other students return? What measures are schools taking to keep kids safe? How many children are returning to class? Here are the answers to these questions and more.
Tuesday was the first day of classes for Catholic students in Grades 1 and 2, with other grades set to have their first days throughout the week.
High school students with the Waterloo Catholic District School Board will start on Sept. 14.
The region's public school board, meanwhile, released a revised schedule that will see Grade 9 orientation begin on Wednesday. Students will be split into two cohorts; the second will have its orientation on Thursday.
Staff member at Waterloo public school has tested positive for COVID-19
Before schools even reopened, one of them was reporting a case of COVID-19 in a staff member.
Officials say that the infected person had not been at Edna Staebler Public School since Thursday.
After a thorough cleaning over the weekend, the school reopened Tuesday for staff and teachers to continue their preparations.
How safe are schools for students and teachers?
Many back-to-school activities carry risk, with some at a higher level than others.
From mandatory masks to staggered entry times, school boards have been using government recommendations and advice from public health officials to craft their own back-to-school strategies. But is it enough?
Infectious disease expert Dr. Abdu Sharkawy says that the risk of returning to school is assessed by using the four C's: closeness, closed spaces, crowds and continuous exposure.
Dr. Sharkawy offered his insight on several back-to-school activities, and how the region could handle them more safely.
For some parents, the answer was clear. At certain schools in Waterloo Region, early indication was that as many as a third of students would not be returning to school in-person.
Those students will learn remotely instead, but will have the opportunity to come back to school after Thanksgiving if they change their minds.
CTV Kitchener received a tour of the COVID-19 precautions being taken at Groh Public School in Kitchener at the end of August.
The school, for students in junior kindergarten to Grade 8, says students will meet with their teacher outside the building before the school bell rings. There will be staggered entry, with each class entering the building separately. Each student must also use hand sanitizers before entering the school.
Signage has been placed in hallways dividing them for two-way traffic, while stairwells are now one-way.
The Waterloo Region District School Board says staff will be provided with personal protective equipment, while each student will receive five face masks.
Desks have also been spaced a metre apart.
In primary grades, individual play areas have been set up with markers, like hula hoops, to promote physical distancing. Those rules will also be enforced when student are outside.
Region of Waterloo Public Health officials say shutting down schools entirely is a "possibility" as students return to the classroom amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, that would be an extreme measure if there was evidence of uncontrolled transmission at multiple schools in the region.
Late last month, the provincial government outlined how schools should handle COVID-19 cases and outbreaks.
In order for a school to declare an outbreak of the novel coronavirus, there would need to be two or more lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 in students or staff with an epidemiological link between them.
Dr. Wang stressed the importance of continuing to follow public health guidelines in regards to physical distancing, hand hygiene and face coverings, especially as schools and the economy open up.
She added that case numbers will increase as students go back to school.
"We will see increasing numbers of cases," Dr. Wang said. "That said, what we are striving for is to minimize the number of cases as much as we can. And, of course, minimize severe outcomes from cases."
Waterloo Region’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang has said that even one confirmed case of the virus could lead to an entire class being sent home to isolate.
So what does this mean for working parents? What are their rights during a pandemic? Does your employer have to give you time off to care for a child who has COVID-19? Should employment law be updated to consider the pandemic?
Employment lawyer Peter McSherry answers some of your questions about being a working parent during the COVID-19 pandemic.