Based on a thorough review of provincial guidelines, an examination of the physical facility, and feedback from teachers and parents, the Ottawa Jewish Community School has announced that it will be able to open after Labour day with a “five-day, full-day” program for all its enrolled students.  The fundamental idea is to restrict contact to as few spaces and people as is reasonable, while still being able to offer meaningful in-person learning.  OJCS has sought to do this by restricting cohorts to 15 students who will spend the overwhelming majority of their school day in one designated space.


Because we know there remain lots of questions and concerns about what this means for students, teachers and parents, we have tried to put together a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) for your convenience.  If you do not see your question on this list – or have additional questions or concerns based on any of the answers – please do not hesitate to be in contact with the school for greater clarity.

COVID FAQ: OJCS 2020-2021 Safe Reopening

Please click on the link below to read the latest letter from Ottawa Public Health (OPH) highlighting the importance for children to be screened daily for COVID-19 and getting tested, if required, even if they are learning remotely. 

How will cohorts be created?

At the time of our decision-making, enrollment dictated that we would be able to offer two cohorts in Grades K, 1, 2, 3, and 5 and one cohort of Grades 4, 6, 7 and 8.  The normal rules for “class-splitting” apply with the major exception of keeping twins and siblings together.

Where will cohorts learn?

Each cohort in Grade K-5 is assigned a primary classroom or learning space (Library) where all its learning activities are designed to take place.  General, French and Jewish Studies Teachers for each grade level will move between their spaces; students will remain in their space.  Cohorts in Grades 6-8 will be assigned a primary classroom or learning space (Makerspace), but students will travel to limited additional spaces during their learning day.

What does this mean for children who receive services from outside specialists?

We will not be able, during this phase of reopening, to provide on-site, in-person access to learning specialists, reading specialists, Occupational Therapists, mental health therapists, etc.  We will try on a case-by-case basis to provide a supervised space for tele-therapy or virtual sessions for students in Grades 5-8.

Will students or teachers be required to wear masks?

All teachers and students at OJCS will be required to wear masks during their day.

What parts of the program have been adjusted to allow for a safe reopening?

Art will now be taught virtually in the cohort spaces with support from the grade-level team.  Library workshops will also be taught virtually and all library services will be rendered virtually and contactless.  Snack and Lunch will be eaten in cohort spaces with supervision from the grade-level team.  Recess will be scheduled by cohort, supervised by the grade-level team wherever possible and will take place in scheduled and demarcated outdoor locations which will be cleaned (see below) between usages.  Outdoor Education in Grades 4-8  will take the place of indoor “PE” in those grades, be held fully outdoors (even in Winter) and conducted through social distancing.  [This means that PE Uniforms will NOT be needed until such time as we resume normal PE activities.  It may be helpful for parents to invest in quality outerwear.]   Tefillah (even in Middle School) will take place in cohorts and will launch without singing or carefully supervised in low voice (no louder or more animated than conversation).  All assemblies, events, holidays, etc., will be reimagined with any necessary adjustments or virtual components to stay in compliance with guidelines.

What parts of the program have been eliminated to allow for a safe reopening?

Based on guidelines, we will not offer formal PE in Grades K-3 or Music K-8.  Grade-level teachers (in K-3) will have shared responsibility for supervising recess and other necessary (outdoor) physical activity.  Clubs, extracurricular sports, etc., are on hold as well.

How else have you restricted contact?

As described in greater detail in our “OJCS Handbook”, we have created three different entrances and exits to the school to further separate K-2, 3-4 and 5-8. Similarly, we have restricted bathroom access to those groupings.

Will students within cohorts be socially distanced in their own classroom?

Students will be seated at individual desks spaced apart.  Students will not be sharing school supplies, but rather each student will have their own materials and books assigned to them.

Will temperatures be taken each day?

The guidelines do not call for mandatory temperature checks each day for either students or teachers.

What are the procedures for kids with runny noses/coughs?

We will be proceeding with extreme caution and will be asking parents to keep home children with just about any symptom of illness at all.  We will be erring on the side of sending students home who exhibit any symptoms as well.  We will be treating our teachers the same.  For more information about our COVID health protocols, please refer to the OJCS Handbook.

What if a student or teacher tests positive or is exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19?

The decision to operate by cohort allows for a more limited, surgical set of closings in the event of a positive case.  We could send home just the cohort into self-quarantine or the grade-level, depending on the circumstance.  For more information about our COVID health protocols, please refer to the OJCS Handbook.

Will students be allowed to use lockers?

During this phase of reopening, students will not have access to lockers or storage outside of their designated learning spaces.

Will parents be allowed in the building to pick up and drop off students?

Parents, guests and visitors will not be able to access the building during this phase of reopening.  Normal drop off and pick up procedures will prohibit parents from entering the building.  Additionally, parents coming to pick up sick children or to take children to off-site appointments will be asked to wait outdoors.  Our Office will be prepared to facilitate all these comings and goings via intercom.  For more information about access to the building, please refer to the OJCS Handbook.

Will my child need to supply their own masks/hand sanitizer?

We do expect families to equip their children with hand sanitizer to be kept in their desk, and to come with their own masks.

How will IEP reviews look in the fall? Will I still be meeting with the Director of Special Education?

Our Director of Special Education, Sharon Reichstein, will be in touch with all families of students with IEPs and facilitating IEP meetings via video conference.

Who do I get in touch with if someone in my family or community has COVID?

Please notify both Ottawa Public Health and OJCS immediately should you discover that you have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.  For more information about our COVID health protocols, please refer to the OJCS Handbook.

If someone in my immediate family travels, are there any protocols we need to follow when they return?

Our school will remain aligned with all public health guidelines with regard to travel – within Ontario, between provinces and outside Canada.  This means that all requirements for quarantine will be applied to all OJCS families.  For more information about our COVID health protocols, please refer to the OJCS Handbook.

Will my child still receive resource support?

For students learning in-person or at home, any student with an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) will continue to receive the support and resources required. Sharon Reichstein, Director of Special Education, is available ( to discuss any questions you may have around the delivery of services, if needed.

Can the front office administer my child’s medication?

As per the recently published OJCS Handbook, for this phase of our re-opening, our personnel will not be administering any medications.

Will there be before and after-care?

We have a very limited availability for before care this year.  If you have questions about Before Care, please be in touch with Keren Gordon at

We have worked with the SJCC and can share that their Aftercare Program will mirror our larger grade-level groupings (K-2, 3-5 and 6-8) to maximize health and safety.  They have also pledged to keep non-OJCS students in a separate group.  Please contact Gail Lieff ( for information and to register.

Will there be a hot lunch program?

We will be offering a hot lunch program, starting on October 13th, for Tuesday and Thursdays (meat days).  These delicious meals will be catered by Creative Kosher Catering. Information was sent by email from our PTA.  Please note: our PTA will still be offering hot dog lunches monthly. 

Hot lunches can be ordered here on the PTA store website 

What will we do about supply teachers?

We will inevitably require supply teachers from time to time (it is possible that teachers can do some teaching from home with creative in-school supervision).  We are looking to narrow our circle of supply teachers to a group who will commit to substituting only at OJCS to reduce the risk for community spread.  However, like all OJCS Faculty, supply teachers will be required to be masked and socially distanced while teaching at OJCS.

What kind of enhanced cleaning protocols will the school use?

Working with the Campus, we will have enhanced cleaning both in terms of frequency as well as products.  The Campus will be using a fog sanitizer machine that’s called the Fogger. It can sanitize a classroom in minutes, as well as hallways.  It will be in use during each school day to sanitize outdoor play structures and each evening in every classroom and learning space.  If a child or teacher is sent home due to illness, it will be brought in immediately to that room for a cleaning.  The product is an organic chemical that is safe for humans, animals, plants, etc.




  • In accordance with recommendations from Public Health Ontario and Ottawa Public Health, high touch areas will be cleaned and disinfected at least twice daily. This includes door handles, push bars, railings, washroom surfaces, elevator buttons, kitchen surfaces, and light switches. 
  • All other spaces will be cleaned and disinfected once per day, including hard floors.
  • In accordance with recommendations from Public Health Ontario and Ottawa Public Health, outdoor play structures will be disinfected during school hours, after each cohort has used the structure.  Protocols for cleaning outdoor play structures during winter months will be determined at a later time, as further research is required as to the safety of doing so in sub-freezing temperatures.
  • Sanitizing machines and stations have been set up in various locations on campus, and will be cleaned and filled as required. All hand sanitizer is alcohol-based.
  • Touchless paper towel dispensers have been installed in many washrooms.
  • All air filtration systems will be cleaned quarterly, and filters will be replaced regularly.


OJCS is working with Campus to determine whether or not an additional OJCS-dedicated housekeeping staff person will be required to meet the above and other COVID-specific cleaning protocols. 


A detailed list of the disinfectants to be in use is available upon request.

Will water fountains be in use or turned off this year?

Water fountains can safely be used to fill water bottles (and cups) only.  We will ensure through either signage, physical blockage or manual shut-offs that students are unable to use the water fountains by mouth.

I’ve indicated my child will be engaging in virtual learning only due to health reasons, how will that work?

We expect the following broad principles will guide the distant learning program for the upcoming school year:

  • Teachers will plan and share schedules of weekly classes and assignments in advance, which will give you an opportunity to plan for synchronous (live) and asynchronous (on your own time) learning, as well as printing of any required materials. These will be housed on the class blog.
  • Teachers will record and archive lessons, either in advance or after delivery, and will link to any useful resources. These, too, will be housed on the class blogs. 
  • Students will be responsible for attending some live sessions as part of larger class activities, as well as one-on-one with teachers and remotely working with peers on group projects, if any. 
  • Students will be encouraged to be more self-directed and self-motivated to complete assigned tasks, and explore areas of personal interest. 
  • Teachers will support students to prioritize their tasks by clearly distinguishing between required and supplementary assignments, with flexibility in the ways students can complete their work from home.
  • Teachers will continue to closely monitor students’ work and hold them accountable for their performance with high expectations. 
  • Any student with an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) will continue to receive the support and resources required. Sharon Reichstein, Director of Special Education, is available to discuss any questions you may have around the delivery of services, if needed.

How will the library lending service work this year?

We will be operating the Library through the online management system we installed a couple of years ago.  This site includes our entire catalog, searchable and customizable, and allows students, teachers and families to check books out of the Library.  (This is different from our Library Blog, another valuable source for library, literacy, research and informational media needs at OJCS.  Each site links to the other.)  Through this site, we will be able to continue basic Library services in a safe and touchless form.  For more information, please contact Brigitte Ruel (

Will there be a Middle School Retreat?

There will NOT be a formal Middle School Retreat at Camp B’nai Brith of Ottawa as has been the case the last couple of years.  There will, however, be a scheduled Retreat on September 15th – 17th here on Campus.  The goals remain to build relationships within and between grade-level cohorts, to team-build, to create community, and to set the tone for a successful Middle School year at OJCS. We may incorporate field trips into the program, but needless to say, all activities will include adherence to all relevant health protocols.

Will there continue to be electives for the Middle School students?

Yes, we will be offering Middle School electives this year, and they will be contained to grade-level cohorts (i.e. each grade will have their electives once per week within their classroom or outdoors).  More information to follow.

My child was sick and I'm unclear whether they can return to school. What should I do?

Please use the Ottawa Public Health Online Screening Tool to assess what your next steps are.  We are always happy to guide you through your individual situation once your child is symptom-free for 24 hours.  Please do get in touch with Ellie Kamil at if you have questions.

I have a child or children in Kindergarten - Grade 2, what can I do at the end of the day to be helpful with pick up?

There are a few ways parents can help.  Kindergarten – Grade 2 parents, once you’ve picked up your child(ren) please do say your goodbyes and head home.  Many children are running around the front lawn making our sign-out process more challenging.  They are also removing masks and playing with children from different grades which presents a challenge.

We also ask that you not park in the bus zone (marked by pylons) as this will cause disruptions to the traffic flow.

If you prefer to use our pick-up lane in front of the school, please do get out of your car to give us a wave and then we will happily send your child to you.

Please never have your child get in or out of your car from the opposite side of the street.  You must pick up safely from the curb in front of the school.

How are things going with masking? Is there anything else I should know about masking?

Our students have been absolute marvels with mask wearing.  We were all concerned and our worries have been put to rest through our observations these first weeks.  As we seek to improve our practices, it is helpful for parents to:

  • ensure that their child puts their mask on in the car and not in the line-up to enter;
  • purchase effective masks (for examples the neck warmer kind of masks have been deemed ineffective);
  • send extra masks in your child’s backpack each day;
  • check that your child still has a sanitizer in their bag.  This way they can replace the one in their desk should it get low.

One helpful tip: include a fresh mask in a ziploc in your child’s lunchbox so that their morning mask comes off and goes in the ziploc for washing and a fresh one is put on for the rest of the afternoon.

I am hearing that my child is watching videos at lunch time. Is there a reason for this?

Yes, we can absolutely share why our faculty are using educational Hebrew videos, audio books, Hebrew or French music, and other methods to keep the classrooms quiet while the children are eating.  This is the most challenging time of the day in terms of safety protocols that keep the children and faculty safe as the students are all unmasked.  Children naturally want to talk and share their thoughts with everyone (which in normal circumstances we encourage).  With COVID in mind, we really need for the children to eat quietly and so teachers and administrators facilitating nutrition breaks/lunches will rotate through a variety of ways to have the kids focus and eat..

My child has a birthday party coming up, what should I do?

We understand that families want to celebrate with their families and friends.  We ask that you pay very close attention to what Ottawa Public Health is advising to guide your decisions.  

Will you be having fire drills in the coming weeks?

Yes, we have developed a fire safety curriculum that balances fire safety requirements with public health guidance to minimize the risk of COVID transmission.  Each class will participate in age-appropriate programming with their teachers and then practice going outside via their designated exit and lining up outside.

Will there be a photo day this year?

Yes, on Tuesday, October 27th. We are moving forward with individual student photos and have liaised closely with LifeTouch to ensure COVID protocols will be in place (i.e. using our vast gym space, one class at a time, nothing to hold or touch in photos, etc…).  Please note that Virtual Learners will be invited to come to have their pictures taken on our Photo Retake Day.

What if my child only has one mild symptom?

If a child has only one mild symptom (e.g. runny nose, mild congestion, scratchy throat, headache), they should stay home for at least 24 hours and must be improving before returning to school, but they do NOT need a negative test to return. If they have fever or new/worsening cough, OR two or more of the mild symptoms, they need EITHER a negative test or a note from a healthcare provider offering a non-COVID alternate diagnosis to explain their symptoms (or a 14-day period and return to a non-symptomatic state) before returning.

We believe that these new recommendations remain aligned with our mandate to keep as many students in school as possible, while being safely manageable because of our policy of universal masking.

Please note that OJCS reserves the right for its faculty or administration to contact parents and insist on a full medical assessment of any child who seems to be suffering from more than one mild symptom, if sent to school under the guise of “only one mild symptom”.

If one of my children (or a household contact) is sick do their siblings need to remain at home?

Yes, the Ottawa Public Health COVID-19 Screening Tool advises the following:  “ALL household contacts must also isolate at home while monitoring your child’s symptom.”