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Principal’s Update – October 2021

We are five weeks into the school year and off to a good start.  It is amazing how fast the time has gone!

We returned for the 21/22 school year with many of the same protocols that were in place at school during the 20/21 school year.

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) continues to require daily student screening. The new Screening Booklets were sent home on Wednesday, October 6th. (If you still have pages remaining in the first book, please continue to use it until all the pages are done.) Thank you, parents, for continuing with the screening process. We appreciate that the forms are completed each morning, with your child’s temperature and the questions answered. (I especially appreciate the times when the screening sheet is printed off at home if the screening booklet has been forgotten at school.)

We thank you for being extra diligent when it comes to your child’s health and appreciate the calls and emails that we receive when your child is not feeling well. We do continue to follow OPH’s guidelines with regards to which symptoms are COVID symptoms and will require a COVID test, and which symptoms can be monitored at home. Keeping all sick children at home will help ensure a safe school community. Thank you for phoning into school if you are uncertain of the steps needed to be taken when your child is ill.

When we returned to school in September 2020, we made a number of changes to keep our school community safe. These included daily screening, class cohorts, additional cleaning, air conditioning in classrooms, and adding in plexiglass desk partitions for each student and air purifiers in each classroom.

This year, as with last year, we will follow the guidelines provided by OPH. As our understanding of Covid-19 evolves, the guidelines often change to reflect the most current research. OPH has provided updates on where the focus should be and directions that schools should take. We continue to meet with OPH at a group level, with other independent schools and on an individual level to address the specific needs of Fern Hill. The more information we have will help keep the school community a safe one.

This year there is an emphasis on:

Recommendations from OPH and medical contacts at CHEO are that the plexiglass shields come down. OPH does not recommend them based on the Science Table COVID-19 Advisory for Ontario – School Operation for the 2021-2022 Academic Year in the Context of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

OPH has indicated that the plexiglass barriers are not recommended in the classroom setting, as they have not shown to reduce SARS-CoV-2 transmission, and may alter the airflow, leading to turbulence and recirculation in the room.

With the OPH recommendations in mind – the Board at Fern Hill School has voted to remove the plexiglass barriers on the desks.  Yes….the addition of the plexiglass on the student desks were a “security” and a “comfort” last year,  especially when we started the school year when masks were not mandated for all grades, but we knew that they would come down eventually, and based on the recommendations that are currently provided by OPH, they should come down sooner, than later.

When we return from the Thanksgiving weekend, after monitoring the children and preparing them for the change, we will start removing the plexiglass one class at a time.

We are still committed to providing a safe environment at school for the children. We will continue to emphasis all the areas that are recommended, with masking being most important for all grade levels. We will continue to follow the recommendations of OPH.

Currently the COVID vaccine is available for children born in 2009 and is recommended by OPH to help to keep the school communities safe. OPH will have information available on their website for parents.

We will continue to dismiss the students in the back yard at the end of the school day. If parents could please wait for your children on the yellow squares outside in the yard and not clustered behind the yellow fence it would be most appreciated. It is much easier for the teachers to see you that way. (Please do not feel that the yellow fence is there for the parents; it is there to separate the yard at recess times so that the children will play with their cohort only.)

We look forward to working with your children, and your family, in the 2021-2022 school year. Thank you all for helping to keep the school community a safe one.


Deborah Gutierrez                                              Jennifer Rowberry

Principal                                                           FHS Board President