Welcome back to almost normal
Tuesday morning, Sept. 7 was the day students went back to school across Ontario. The Upper Canada District School Board operates 79 schools, with approximately 4,200 staff educating around 27,000 students in the counties of Lanark, Leeds-Grenville, Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry, and Prescott-Russell. In Winchester, parents and students were greeted by the last bits and pieces of renovations to the Winchester Public school. These students and their mother were happy to be back and chatted with North Dundas mayor Tony Fraser outside the school on one of its new sidewalks on Clarence Street. Left to right is: Mayor Fraser, Addison, Becky and Easton Gilmer of Winchester. Morin Photo

WINCHESTER – Schools in North Dundas opened for the year on Tues., Sept 7.

The Winchester Public School, near the end of long-awaited renovations and the addition of a day care centre, managed to welcome all their students back with a minimum of confusion thanks to a prepared school staff.

The new school year brings a new look to the school with a carefully graded soccer pitch, a baseball diamond, new play structure and parking lot.

The most obvious change in the look of the school is the new parking and driving lanes on the north and south sides of the school. The school bus drop off points have changed and the main entrance for students at least on the first day of school was on the east side of the school.

The Upper Canada School Board director of education, Ron Ferguson said in a press release last week: “As you know, school boards were given guidelines on Aug. 3 from the Ministry of Education regarding the return to in-person learning; these guidelines are being updated regularly and can be found on the provincial website; while we continue to work with our public health units and the Ministry of Education on the details of our own return to school plan, including the vaccine policy for staff and students and vaccine clinics.”

North Dundas Mayor Tony Fraser who along with the North Dundas council and municipal staff have been working with the school board for years, to see the changes made to the school take shape today.

“There were many consultations with the school board to get this done.”

He mentioned that when the construction started there were so many questions from area residents about how the construction would affect them.

In the end seeing all of the work that has been done, most questions have been answered.

York Street on the south side of the main school building is now one-way.

“There is a baseball diamond and a soccer pitch, a basketball court and a swing set and a long jump pit. There will be a gazebo.”

The mayor remembered when the soccer field had a terrible grade with one side of the field having an uphill challenge for the other team on field. All that has changed. The school board has also added a parking lot for staff.

The diagonal parking on the north side of the building has been removed.

The mayor said, “Diagonal parking was not convenient or safe it wasn’t efficient.”

He mentioned that in the winter snow removal on the sidewalk could be difficult because of the diagonal parking.

Access to the hospital adjacent to the school for ambulances is still the same as before, despite the new road work.

The municipality is excited that the school board has gone ahead with their renovations. The day care centre is still in the construction phase but its addition to the school has met with the Winchester community’s approval.

The school board has addressed the concern that parents had with a Covid strategy. The main issue to be aware of regarding the Covid restrictions is that students will be screened each day at the school as they begin their school day.

All staff and all students in Grades 1-12 will be required to wear masks while indoors and on student transportation. Students in Kindergarten are encouraged to wear masks, but it’s not mandatory. Students are not required to wear masks outdoors.

Kindergarten to Grade 8 students will continue to be in cohorts in class.

Students in Grade 9-12 will have two courses for the fall, with a quadmester operating schedule looking similar to last year.

Sports and clubs will resume this fall, with some modifications. More info will come from your school and coaches. Similar COVID-19 protocols from last year will be in place, such as heightened cleaning, increased hand washing and hand sanitizing upon entry into the school.

The UCDSB press release added: “Throughout the summer, the UCDSB has been continuing to improve ventilation in all schools and classrooms using the Ministry of Education guidance as a minimum threshold. We have been optimizing and improving air filtration on a school-by-school basis to the maximum level where possible, improving temperature and humidity controls, replacing or upgrading some mechanical systems, and have purchased more than 1,600 High Efficiency Particular Air (HEPA) filters’ units.

A detailed inventory of specific ventilation measures will be posted on the UCDSB website in the coming weeks.”