Return to School 2021-2022

We are pleased to welcome students, families and staff back to another year of learning at the Durham District School Board. You can view the school year calendars for the 2021-22 school year on our website. The information on this webpage is up to date as of November 25, 2021 and incorporates recent guidance from the Ministry of Education for the 2021-22 school year.

The Durham District School Board’s priority is the safety and well-being of our students and staff. We continue to consult with the Durham Region Health Department, while also following the directions of the Ministry of Education to ensure that our schools and workplaces are safe. 

We are focusing on everyday mental health and well-being strategies to support educators’ and students’ return to school by encouraging belonging, building trust, and creating optimal conditions for learning and development. 

This webpage provides important information for students, parents and guardians, including health and safety protocols, resources, and more. It also outlines information about DDSB@Home, our virtual school that offers robust and innovative programming for students who have chosen to learn from home.  

Ongoing contact with families will take place throughout the school year to provide further details about specific school-level information and board-wide updates.

Blue banner - The school day

The Ministry of Education released their direction to school boards on August 3, 2021, which included information on what the school day will look like for the 2021-2022 school year. The information posted below is based on the most current information available and will be updated if further guidance and direction is provided by the Ministry.

Elementary Schools 

Elementary students will attend school five days per week. Enhanced health and safety protocols are in place (i.e., enhanced cleaning, handwashing breaks, students eating lunch in their classroom, etc.). Our goal is to ensure physical distancing in classrooms as much as possible.

Students will still receive 300 minutes of face-to-face educator instruction, and the full range of the elementary curriculum will be provided. 

Families should check with their school for information about staggering of bell times, entry, exit and recess. 

Students in Grades 1 to 12 are required to wear non-medical or cloth masks indoors in school and all students are required to wear one while on school buses. We strongly encourage Kindergarten students to also wear a mask.


Staggered Starts for Kindergarten Students 

We will be implementing a staggered start for Kindergarten students to help them adjust to a new learning environment. You can review what this may look like by visiting our Staggered Start PDF. More information will be provided to you by your school on specific dates that your child in Kindergarten should be attending.   
Secondary Schools 

Full-day in-person learning five days per week is in place for secondary students who selected in-person learning for the 2021-22 school year.

For the first half of the school year, secondary schools will be operating on a quadmester schedule with students taking two courses at a time for approximately 45 school days per quadmester. The Ministry has indicated that their goal is for schools to be able to return to a semestered system for the second half of the school year. Students are required to wear masks while in school, and enhanced health and safety protocols have been implemented. Secondary cafeterias are open and students will continue to have the opportunity to leave school for lunch. 

All secondary students are in school from 10am to 4pm daily during the 2021-22 school year. This includes those in special education classes and those learning at DDSB@Home.

Sample school day from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. with one hour lunch break.


Sample Secondary Day Schedule without homeroom
PeriodSecondary Day Schedule Without Homeroom



















Period 1 is 75 minutes

Lunch is 60 minutes



Learning Preference (In-Person or Virtual Learning)

Families had two opportunities to change their child’s learning preference (if desired) for the 2021-22 school year, most recently in August. 

The window to select between in-person or virtual learning through DDSB@Home closed on Wednesday, August 11, 2021 at 11:59pm. Please know that we will do everything within our purview to ensure that your child(ren) are supported in the learning environment you have selected for them. We encourage you to reach out to the school office and staff at your school to discuss any necessary learning supports or accommodations.

Elementary School (K-8) Selections
In August, we recognized that the situation for children aged 11 and under was still evolving given there was not yet a COVID-19 vaccination roll-out plan. For that reason, as circumstances have now changed regarding access to a vaccination, we are providing elementary families one opportunity to change their learning preference in January 2022. More information will be provided to families in December.
Secondary School (9-12) Selections
We are not offering the option to change your response after Wednesday, August 11, 2021 at 11:59pm. The staffing process for a system as large as ours is complicated and takes time to organize. Therefore, it is unlikely that changes to learning preferences can be accommodated throughout the year due to the complexity of course selections at secondary.


DDSB at Home banner

Welcome to the DDSB@Home virtual school. 

The programming offered by DDSB@Home is similar to a physical school, and staff are prepared to coordinate with your home school to be supportive of the best interests of your child(ren). 

Elementary students who are entering Junior Kindergarten or are new to DDSB can select DDSB@Home Elementary on the New Student Registration form. At this time,  DDSB@Home Secondary is no longer taking registrations for online schooling for the 2021 – 2022 school year. Please register with your designated home school. Any special requests for transfers must be made through your area System Lead in consultation with the home school Principal. 

The information posted below is based on the most current information available. Please visit the Elementary@Home and Secondary@Home websites for additional information, updates and FAQs.

Minimum Requirements for Engaging Students 

Students will receive 300 minutes of learning opportunities, with a combination of both RealTime (synchronous/live) and FlexTime (asynchronous/independent/not live) learning activities. Programming is based on the full Ontario curriculum and includes opportunities for guided instruction, large- and small-group learning, synchronous check-ins, and asynchronous independent work. Teachers will be available to students at all times during the teachers' assigned teaching timetables, as they would be if they were face-to-face in a classroom setting.

 Minimum Requirements for RealTime Learning

The table below outlines the minimum amount of time per day that students, depending on their grade level, must be provided with synchronous learning as part of their scheduled or timetabled learning.  

Grade Level of Students

Daily Minimum RealTime Learning Requirement


180 minutes

Grades 1 to 8

225 minutes

Grades 9 to 12

The higher of 60 minutes for each 75-minute class period or 225 minutes per day for a full course schedule.

The RealTime learning time requirements outlined in the table above may be divided into shorter periods throughout the school day. For example, a child in Kindergarten may participate in an opening exercise for 10 minutes with their whole class, as well as a combination of whole-group and small-group sessions throughout the school day, and a 10-minute closing exercise with their class at the end of the school day. Educators will use their professional judgement to provide some flexibility to students on an individual basis when students are unable to participate in RealTime learning.

DDSB@Home Elementary Draft Sample Schedule 

DDSB@Home Elementary Virtual Learning Draft Sample Schedule

DDSB@Home Elementary RealTime and FlexTime Learning

     DDSB@Home Elementary - Realtime and FlexTime Learning

DDSB@Home Secondary Sample Schedule 

View the Secondary Sample Schedule

*Note: Sample schedule was from the 2020-21 school year and may be subject to change.  

Students with Special Education Needs 

Students with special education needs will continue to be supported through individualized service and program plans. Educators will continue to provide accommodations, modified expectations, and alternative programming to students with special education needs, consulting with parents/caregivers in the development of their IEPs for the 2021-2022 school year. We are working to provide continued access to assistive technology, including Special Equipment Amount (SEA) equipment, where possible, to support students as they participate in remote learning. In situations where access to assistive technology is not feasible, educators are expected to work with students and parents to determine workable solutions on an individual basis.

Technology Supports 

Parents of students enrolled in DDSB@Home in Grade K-6 that do not currently have a DDSB device assigned to them, can request a device by contacting their DDSB@Home campus. A request will be submitted to IT Services who in turn will contact the parent/guardian via email to book an appointment to pick up a device. Please note that a DDSB device is not required as any web-enabled device can be used to access DDSB@Home lessons and resources.


Staying healthy and safe - yellow banner

Staying safe and healthy is everyone’s responsibility. Here is a summary of some of the steps we are taking to protect our school community from COVID-19:


The most important step we can take to ensure the health and safety of all community members is to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Children aged five (or who are turning five years old by the end of 2021) and older are eligible to receive a first and second dose of the Pfizer vaccine in Ontario.

On August 17th, 2021, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health announced that the Ministry of Education intends to introduce a vaccination disclosure policy for all publicly-funded school board employees and all staff in licenced child care settings for the 2021-22 school year. Employees that are not fully vaccinated or wish not to disclose their vaccination status must take two (2) rapid antigen tests per week.

In partnership with Durham Region Health Department (DRHD), schools will continue to promote any scheduled school-based vaccination clinics open to eligible students, families and staff.

Below you will find links to additional information where you can learn more about the vaccines to help you make an informed decision for your family.

Daily Checklists:  Elementary and Secondary

A big part of health and safety in schools is air quality.

  • A big part of health and safety in schools is air quality.
  • Between 2015 and 2020, more than 180 projects have been completed to upgrade the air quality in DDSB schools and buildings.  
  • We have invested in upgraded filters for all of our ventilation systems. These upgraded filters are highly effective at removing a broad range of particles, including bacteria and even some viruses.
  • Ventilation checks have been completed in every school. We have purchased 1,870 portable HEPA air filtration units, which are being installed as quickly as possible. These units will enhance ventilation and will be installed in various schools across the district. Furthermore, the Ministry of Education has supplied an additional 311 units. All of these individual units have HEPA-level filtration and filter the air within spaces that are not fully mechanically ventilated. All Kindergarten classrooms, regardless of ventilation type, have been given improved HEPA-level filtration systems.
  • Duct cleaning is also being completed at schools to boost the efficiency of existing ventilation systems. 


  • Students in Grades 1 to 12 are required to wear non-medical or cloth masks indoors at school, including in hallways and during classes. 
  • Students in Kindergarten are strongly encouraged by the DDSB to wear masks inside the classroom. 
  • Medical masks and eye protection (i.e. face shield) will be provided for all teachers and other staff of school boards. 
  • All school-based staff will be required to wear masks, with reasonable exceptions for medical conditions. 
  • School-based staff who are regularly in close contact with students will be provided with all appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). 
Hand Washing 
  • Every class has a handwashing station or hand sanitizer available to students and teachers.
  • A schedule to regularly clean hands has been incorporated into daily routines (e.g. upon entering the school, before lunch and recess breaks, after using the bathroom, returning from playing outside and after sneezing/coughing).
  • Students are being educated on proper cough and sneeze etiquette and to avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth. 
Enhanced Cleaning and Disinfection 
  • Enhanced cleaning and disinfection practices will continue to be used by custodial staff. 
  • Frequently touched surfaces are cleaned and disinfected at least twice a day throughout the school building. 
  • Schools undergo extra cleaning and disinfection at the end of each school day. 
  • Soft surfaces that cannot be easily cleaned and disinfected have been removed from classrooms (e.g. plush/absorbent items, upholstered furnishings).

Every morning parents/guardians must screen their children before they board the school bus, or come to school or childcare. DDSB staff and bus drivers will also be performing a self-screening before coming to work. 

It is critical that everyone conducts a self-assessment daily to check if they have any of these symptoms and they must stay home if they do. 

  • Fever (temperature of 37.8°C or greater) 

  • New or worsening cough 

  • Shortness of breath 

  • Sore throat 

  • Difficulty swallowing 

  • Changes to sense of taste or smell 

  • Nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain 

  • Runny nose, or nasal congestion (not caused by seasonal allergies) 

For more information visit the Durham Region Health Department website

School Bus Safety 

Durham Student Transportation Services has procedures in place to ensure the safety of everyone who requires bus transportation. 

  • Students must stay home if they are sick.

  • Each student must clean their hands using soap or hand sanitizer before entering the bus.

  • Students will be assigned seats according to grade level.

  • All students will be required to wear a non-medical mask. 

 For more information on student transportation, please visit the DSTS Webpage.

Physical Distancing Strategies 

The DDSB has developed strategies to support general physical distancing throughout the school day. Here are a few examples: 

Adjustments to movement throughout schools  

  • Students will notice visual cues, such as directional arrows through corridors and stairwells and signs/posters on walls, to guide appropriate distances in lines/queues and at other times. 


  • Student entry into the school may be staggered according to their classroom to provide physical distancing and less congestion in hallways and corridors. 

  • At schools with buses, school parking lots and kiss n rides will be closed off with pylons to all non-bus traffic during the arrival and departure of buses. 

  • It is strongly recommended that any non-bused students walk to/from school. 

  • If there is a need to drive students, vehicles should be parked off site in a safe location and the student should be walked to school. 

Use of outdoor space when possible 

  • Weather permitting, activities may be held outside. 

Lunch breaks 

  • Students can eat together outdoors without distancing, or indoors with a minimum of two metres maintained between cohorts and as much distance as possible within a cohort. 

  • Cafeterias/auditoriums are open for use, and distancing must be maintained.  

  • Students continue to have the option to go home for lunch. 

  • It is encouraged that staff and students bring their own lunch from home. 

  • Water fountains are closed but water bottle refill stations are available. 

  • To the greatest extent possible, elementary students will eat their lunch in their classroom. 


COVID-19 banner

The implementation of our enhanced health and safety protocols will reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. 

If everyone does their part to stay safe and healthy (both inside schools and in any public setting), the likelihood that someone will contract the COVID-19 virus at school will be low.  

The Ministry of Education has established COVID-19 outbreak protocols (subject to change) that we are supplementing in the event that someone feels sick and/or contracts the virus.

COVID-19:  A Guide for Schools - Supporting Health and Safety for All
COVID-19:  A Guide for Schools - Supporting Health and Safety for All
Contact Tracing 
  • Daily records of attendance of all persons within the school building will be kept up to date and available to Durham Region Health Department to facilitate contact tracing in the event of a confirmed COVID-19 case or outbreak. 
  • Classes will be grouped together to the greatest extent possible. This will involve students remaining in contact with only their classmates, teacher, and other educational support staff assigned to the classroom for as much as the school day as possible. 
  • Non-essential visitors to the school will be limited. Wherever possible, telephone meetings with parents/guardians, vendors and outside agencies will be held.
If a Student Feels Sick at School

A detailed protocol has been established if students become ill during the school day.  

  • Students or staff who develop COVID-19 symptoms will immediately be separated from others. 

  • Staff and parents will be directed to consult their health provider and should be provided with information about COVID-19 testing locations. 

  • Staff and/or students who test positive may not return to school until they are cleared by the Durham Region Public Health Department. 

  • Staff and/or students who test negative can return to school once they are symptom-free for 24 hours. 

  • DDSB schools will immediately report any suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 to the Durham Region Health Department and the Board.  

  • DDSB schools will participate in contact tracing through keeping records of classes, bussed students, and visitors to schools.

Students and Staff with Confirmed COVID-19 Cases Protocol 
  • If a COVID-19 positive case is identified in a school, the Durham Region Health Department will provide further instructions about who else in the school may need testing and/or monitoring/isolation.  
  • Staff/children who are being managed by the Durham Region Health Department (e.g. confirmed cases of COVID-19, household contacts of cases, etc.) must follow their instructions on when they can return to school.
  • Schools and the DDSB are committed to informing families and school staff if there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the school. Please visit the COVID Advisory webpage for information and updates.

Ministry of Health:  COVID-19 Guidance: School Case, Contact, and Outbreak Management

DDSB Updates

The following is a list of updates and resources provided for our school communities regarding the return to school for 2021-2022:

Letters/Updates to Families and Guardians from the DDSB

August 4, 2021 - Return to School for 2021-2022

Dear Parents/Guardians, 

We hope that you and your families are enjoying the summer months. We are reaching out to you today to provide updates on the upcoming 2021-22 school year. The first day of school for all regular calendar schools is Thursday, September 9. Modified calendar secondary schools start on Monday, August 30 and modified calendar elementary schools start on Tuesday, August 10To review the school year calendar, please visit the DDSB website. 

Yesterday, the Ministry of Education provided all school districts in Ontario with updated health and safety guidelines and direction to help keep our school communities safe. We will be following these directions and working closely with the Durham Region Health Department to implement health and safety measures. This will include updated guidance that we expect to receive prior to the start of the school year on managing confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19. There may be adjustments to this guidance and our protocols as the school year progresses in order to help keep staff and students safe. 

The Chief Medical Officer of Health of Ontario has been clear that getting vaccinated is the best way to protect against COVID-19 for anyone 12 years of age or older. With the more transmissible Delta variant, vaccines continue to be effective in reducing transmission, enabling us to see our friends, family, and have a more normal life. If you, or your eligible child have not yet been vaccinated, please consider doing so as unvaccinated individuals are much more likely to get COVID-19 and in turn, feed the spread of COVID-19 to others in the community. Let’s work together to stay safe and help keep our schools open for learning. This means getting vaccinated if you are eligible. You can book a COVID-19 vaccine appointment for anyone 12 years of age and older at 

You may already be familiar with some of the recently announced school-opening measures, but there are also some new protocols and practices to be aware of. 

Here are some examples of things to expect for the upcoming school year based on the Ministry of Education’s direction: 

  • Full-day in-person learning five days per week will be in place for elementary and secondary students who select in-person learning for the 2021-22 school year. 

  • Virtual learning remains an option for elementary and secondary students. 

  • Families will have an opportunity from Thursday, August 5 to Wednesday, August 11 to change their selection (more information follows at the end of this e-mail). 

  • Students in Grades 1 to 12 will be required to wear masks indoors, including in hallways, during classes and while on school buses. We strongly encourage students in Kindergarten to wear masks. Masks are not required while outdoors. 

  • Elementary students will be grouped together in a cohort for the full day.  

  • Our goal will be to ensure physical distancing takes place in classrooms as much as possible. The Durham District School Board Trustees have provided additional funding from their reserve budget to assist with this goal. 

  • For the first semester, secondary schools will be operating on a quadmester schedule with students taking two courses at a time for approximately 45 school days per quadmester. The Ministry has indicated that their goal is for school to be able to return to a semestered system for the second half of the school yearSecondary cafeterias will be open and students will continue to have the opportunity to leave school for lunch. 

  • Daily COVID-19 self-assessments are still required for staff and students before entering school. 

  • Enhanced health and safety protocols, including cleaning practices will continue to be in effect. 

  • Music, physical education, and school clubs will be permitted with modifications.  

  • Athletic extra-curriculars will look different in the fall with the understanding that a return to more normal sporting protocols may occur throughout the year. We appreciate all of the volunteers who provide opportunities for extra-curricular clubs and sports and will work with professional associations and Durham Region Health Department to do our best to support extra-curricular activities. 

  • Ventilation and air quality upgrades that meet and/or exceed Ministry guidance in classrooms have been completed. This work includes full air exchanges, upgraded filtersdaily monitoring of systems, new HVAC units have been installed and additional portable HEPA air purification units have been ordered for all classrooms without mechanical ventilation and all Kindergarten classrooms.  

You can find out more about our return to school plans by visiting the Return to School webpage and Frequently Asked Questions.

Changing Learning Preferences (Virtual or In-Person) for the 2021-22 School Year 

Families will receive an email tomorrow, Thursday, August 5 with instructions on how to change your child’s learning preference (if desired) through the parent portal for the 2021-22 school year.  

You will be able to select between in-person learning or virtual learning through DDSB@Home starting on Thursday, August 5 at 12:01 AM and ending on Wednesday, August 11, 2021 at 11:59pm. We ask that families please consider both options thoroughly before making their choice.

Elementary Selections 

We recognize that the situation for children aged 12 and under is still evolving given there is not yet a vaccination roll-out plan. For that reason, should circumstances change over the year in terms of access to a vaccination, we would assess families’ desire to return to in-school learning. Families will have one opportunity to change their learning preferences once vaccines are available. For now, the expectation is that families will decide between learning options by Wednesday, August 11, 2021 at 11:59pm.

Secondary Selections  

We will not be offering the option to change your response after Wednesday, August 11, 2021 at 11:59pm. We require families to decide now so that we can organize classes and staff schools to ensure that there are no delays to the start of the school year. The staffing process for a system as large as ours and at the secondary level is quite complicated and takes time to organizePlease keep in mind that once schools are staffed, it is unlikely that changes can be accommodated throughout the yearAt secondary, given that vaccinations have rolled out, we will not be offering another choice. 

On behalf of our school teams, we are looking forward to welcoming your children back to school and hope that the remainder of the summer brings with it time for you and your family to enjoy.



Norah Marsh 
Director of Education 

Other Resources