Here's how schools in Guelph are preparing for a safe return to class

Schools in the Guelph region are busy preparing to safely welcome students back to in-person learning next week.

But officials say for those enrolled in the Upper Grand District School Board and the Wellington Catholic District School Board, classrooms will not look that different.

“When the ministry provided their back-to-school guidelines, much of it is pretty similar to what schools and students and families experienced back in April. However there have been some changes,” said Mike Glazier, the director of education at the Wellington Catholic District School Board.

New this year is a greater emphasis on mental health supports for students, along with the addition of HEPA filters to all classrooms in both the public and Catholic schools.

“For kindergarten through grade eight, is we've added in a portable HEPA filter into those classrooms. It’s one more added layer of protection,” said Peter Sovran, director of education at the Upper Grand District School Board.

Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated staff within the Catholic board will be asked to take regular COVID-19 antigen tests.

The public board is still working to determine their plans for testing.

Masks, sanitizing and daily screening will still be mandatory and they will continue to make use of outdoor learning opportunities.

Another big change heading into this school year is the number of eligible students who are vaccinated.

According to public health, that will change how quickly everyone can return to the classroom if there is a positive COVID-19 case.

“In the ages and grades where people can be vaccinated, those students or staff who are vaccinated can return. They'll still monitor themselves and get tested, but they don't need to isolate for that 10 day period,” said Dr. Matthew Tenebaum, the associate medical officer of health for Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph.

If students are in a class where they are too young to be eligible to get vaccinated, it will be the same protocol as last year. If there is a case, the entire cohort will be sent home to isolate.

According to Tenebaum, the key to keeping schools open is for everyone in the community to follow public health guidelines.