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Supporting Special Education and Wellness

Supporting Students in Special Education - Identification and Mitigation of Potential Gaps in Learning 

  • The Board has secured the ability for our staff to perform virtual assessments in August to plan forward for students with special education needs.
  • Education Professionals will be conducting summer psychoeducational assessments and have their own protocol for safe assessments in place that aligns with this document.
  • Focus for educators to begin the school year should be about relationship building, social interaction and diagnostics. Diagnostics should be completed in a timely fashion to determine gaps and to be able to provide remediation.

Personal Equipment, Devices and Learning Materials

Some students require assistive devices and other equipment to go back and forth from school each day. Educational Assistants will assist students in cleaning/disinfecting wheelchairs, trays, communication devices, medical equipment etc. before entering the classroom each day.

New Routines

  • Some students will need extra support in understanding and remembering new routines and processes. Special Education staff will use visual signage, story boards, modelling videos, etc. to communicate these new safety guidelines and procedures.
  • Schools will need to ensure signage is accessible.
  • Ensure all students understand what safe travel means, will learn the appropriate routes (E.g. entry/exit of the gym) throughout the school, handwashing and hygiene guidelines and modifications to the physical setting.
  • Special Education teams will need to plan for learning regarding appropriate social interactions during the modified school year (not touching others, physical distancing, washroom routines, lining up, personal space, boundaries, waiting in turn, water refill stations, etc.).

Personal Care 

  • PPE is mandatory for staff working directly with students with significant special needs. This may include (in addition to the required PPE for all staff) goggles, shield, gloves and/or gowns.
  • Washrooms, change stations, toileting, lifts, will be sanitized by custodial staff regularly according to guidelines in the health and safety section.
  • Custodial staff will need to respond exigently to personal accidents.

Sanitization of Learning Resources and Other Classroom Items

  • Schools will eliminate/reduce items coming into the classroom and communicate this to families.
  • System SERTs are to work with school staff to order in advance, multiples of touchable items to create individual bins of touchable items for each student in a self-contained special education class.
  • Sanitizer and wipes will be available for students to clean their items.
  • Staff will need to be vigilant in monitoring students on the move and possibly touching things in the class.
  • No shared items in the class.

Medically Fragile Students

  • Schools will communicate with parents of medically fragile students in August. They will encourage parents to seek advisement from local public health authorities and/or their own health care provider on attendance at school in September and any accommodations needed. 
  • Families that wish to opt for distance learning will follow the same process in the Continuity of Learning section of this document.
  • Students who need PPE exceptions or other specific medical accommodations are required to submit a written request to the principal. These requests will be assessed on a case by case basis. Students with sensory, breathing or other difficulties may be exempted by the school principal, guided by school board guidelines.

Frequent Movement Required for Students

  • Some students may flee a class/building spontaneously and unannounced. Other students may need to leave class quickly when triggered. School teams will create a support team protocol to safely respond to these situations.
  • As part of their development plan, some students use bikes, trampolines, walkers, scooters to move throughout the halls. School teams will identify and mark routes/areas for this movement and schedule aligned with greater school guidelines.
  • Teams will need to identify a safe space with distancing measures for students in crisis.

Nutrition Programs

  • Revised sanitation and access protocols in partnership with community agencies.
  • Scheduled times for students to access prepackaged supplies for in-school use or take home.

Proximal Support

  • EAs and other staff may be required to be within 3 feet of students for long periods of time. Mandatory PPE is defined in the Health and Safety section of this document.
  • School administration will endeavor to limit the number of classes EAs will interact with.
  • School teams will focus on the set up the environment and non-verbal strategies within NVCI protocols to limit use of physical intervention.
  • School teams need to ensure they secure specialized PPE for leading classes with students who are deaf or hard of hearing and students with other specific needs.

Itinerant Staff and Community Partners

  • Supervisory staff will limit, where possible, the number of contacts for itinerant staff.  
  • Itinerant staff will follow handwashing and safety protocols when leaving and before entering any Board sites.
  • System staff will share Board protocols with community partners to develop safe processes for school access by regulated health professionals, regulated social service professionals and paraprofessionals.
  • Protocols will also be shared for students who may only be able to continue with distance learning delivery.

IPRCs, IEPs, Accommodations and Special Education Support

  • There is limited student capacity in learning resource rooms and wellness centres. School teams will need to schedule the use of these rooms according to guidelines in the health and safety section of the document and sanitize the area after each student use.
  • When providing withdrawal assistance, SERTs will pick the student up from class following safe in-school transit protocols.
  • Unless absolutely necessary, SERTs will not provide assistance in class to avoid increased contact.
  • Schools should identify extra rooms available for student support if possible.
  • Meeting for IPRCs, IEP consults, parent meetings and consultations with itinerant staff will continue to occur virtually in place of face-to-face meetings at school.
  • IEPs are reviewed and revised where appropriate to reflect the changes in learning environment.
  • Assistive technology will continue to be provided for home use.
  • Gifted modules at St. Mary CLC will be paused.
  • Have a private secure area (meeting professional college and health and safety requirements) for assessments, therapy, interviews, and rehabilitation services (e.g. speech-language pathology, occupational therapy, and physical therapy).
  • Special education staff will continue with virtual support for those students who are opting for distance learning.

Supporting the Mental Health and Wellbeing of Students

Wellness in the Classroom

  • Support staff are required to where PPE when supporting students.
  • Students in crisis may need to leave the classroom to go to a safe space. Support staff will go to the class to escort a student to a safe space.
  • Students who need time outside of the classroom, will be picked up and escorted by support personnel.
  • School teams will follow all covid protocols during crisis response to staff. Support staff will in-turn provide new guidelines for students currently in their care.
  • As noted above, focus of educators for first number of days should be relationship building, social interaction, and diagnostics; using a Good for All approach (Tier 1).
  • To promote a sense of wellness and belonging in the classroom, educators will be encouraged to utilize to utilize the Mentally Healthy back-to-school support package and Student Mental Health Action Kit available through School mental Health Ontario, including the Faith and Wellness Resource created in partnership with School Mental Health Ontario and OECTA.

Having a Private and Secure Meeting Space

  • Schools will identify a meeting space (meeting professional college and school board health and safety requirements) for assessments, therapy, interviews, crisis, and rehabilitation services.  This space may be utilized by board or community MH professionals; and where possible, may require more than one space per school.
  • Support staff will continue with virtual support for those students opting for distance learning.


  • Attendance monitoring, protocols and referrals are different during this school year.
  • For students who are attending school, attendance protocols remain the same recognizing the flexibility needed regarding implications of the current context and keeping students and staff healthy.
  • For students who are engaged only in remote learning, attendance should be taken according to the school’s daily protocol. Students in remote learning should be provided with a daily schedule of subjects/courses according to a 5-hour instructional day with opportunities for frequent, live contact with a teacher and expectations for synchronous learning.
  • School will communicate to staff and families, the application of new attendance protocols.
  • Further guidance from the Provincial Attendance Counsellor will be shared with school administrators and Attendance Counsellors.

Student Wellness Following a Traumatic Event

  • Trauma due to the loss of family members, isolation, suicidal ideations, food insecurity, loss of income, loss of housing, etc. may be experienced by some of our students.
  • BHNCDSB is increasing support staff FTE to assist in providing care for all students.
  • Virtual family and student support meetings will continue via Teams and Ontario Telemedicine Network.
  • Support staff will continue with regular virtual check-ins with students who do not return to school in September.
  • Home visits and/or wellness checks may be required for those that are disengaged. BHNCDSB staff will not enter a student’s home but may meet the student outside the home.
  • System staff will continue to work with community agencies to provide clear understanding of shared Circle of Support/Pathways to Care.
  • Staff will continue professional learning with a focus on building students’ social-emotional learning skills so that they can build resilience, manage their stress and build positive relationships in this environment.  Professional learning will be provided for system leaders, educators, and mental health professionals to support the approach to school re-entry, as well as throughout the school year.
  • The Board will make use of the School Mental Health Ontario “toolkit” to support the mental health of all students and educators to support students.
  • BHNCDSB will continue with a tiered approach for mental health supports; ensuring the promotion of mental health and well-being for all, targeted intervention for those in risk and support for those requiring more intensive, clinical interventions particularly to those who have been most affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • Social Workers and Child and Youth Workers will continue with training in self-regulation, trauma informed schools, virtual care and high-risk scenarios in virtual care.
  • Support staff will collaborate with child and youth mental health agencies to support strong connections and make the best use of mental health resources and supports across the integrated system of care.

Supporting Staff Mental Health and Wellbeing

  • Staff may also experience trauma due to loss during the pandemic. Some staff may also need additional support for the return to school in the new learning environment.
  • Professional learning for system leaders, educators, and mental health professionals to support the approach to school re-entry, as well as throughout the school year will be provided.
  • Communication of Employee and Family Assistance Program. 
  • Increase in Human Resources Services support to help staff who require additional support returning to school.
  • Professional learning and resources will be provided to help staff with the stress of new learning environment.
  • Provide educators with resources from the School Mental Health Ontario “toolkit” to support the mental health of all students.

Mental Health and Wellbeing Resources

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the BHNCDSB has recognized that students may require additional mental health and wellbeing resources to help them adjust to these unprecedented times. The ambiguity about the virus and the adjustments to our routines can result in feelings of stress and unease. We have multiple resources for students, parents, and staff offered. 

Mental Health Resources for Students

Kids Help Phone

Canada's free, national, bilingual, confidential, and anonymous 24-hour telephone and online counselling service for children 20 and under. For more information, visit the Kids Help Phone website.

Mindyourmind and Mindcheck

Interactive websites for teens and emerging adults to access information, resources, and tools during tough times. For more information, visit the Mindyourmind and Mindcheck websites.

Playing with Anxiety: Casey's Guide for Teens and Kids

An e-book for students dealing with anxiety. For more information, visit the Playing with Anxiety: Casey's Guide for Teens and Kids website.

Self-Injury Outreach & Support (SIOS)

A collaboration between the University of Guelph and McGill University, SIOS is a non-profit outreach initiative providing information and resources about self-injury to those who self-injure, those who have recovered, and those who want to help. For more information, visit the SIOS website.

Mental Health Resources for Parents and Caregivers

The ABCs of Mental Health

Provides information related to different mental health concerns according to developmental ages. Also provides information to help determine the level of concern (green-yellow-red). For more information, visit the ABCs of Mental Health website.

Children's Mental Health Ontario

For parents and families wanting to learn more about mental health and well-being, signs and symptoms, when to get help, and specific mental illnesses. It also lists books to share with children. For more information, visit the Children's Mental Health Ontario website.

BHNCDSB Information Database for Mental Health and Wellness

A comprehensive, up-to-date database utilized in searching for community and social services for children, youth, and adults in the areas of Brant, Haldimand, and Norfolk.

Contact REACH

A single-entry access point of referral for child and youth mental health issues and developmental services in Haldimand and Norfolk. For more information, visit the Contact REACH website.

Haldimand-Norfolk REACH

A large, multi-service agency offering a wide range of coordinated services and supports to children, youth, individuals, and families. Referrals go through Contact REACH. For more information, visit the Haldimand-Norfolk REACH website.

Haldimand-Norfolk REACH Brochures: Family Services Single Therapy Sessions, Temper Taming Group Sessions, Family Services Counselling Programs, Walk-In Counselling Clinic

Contact Brant

A single-entry access point of referral for child and youth mental health issues and developmental services in Brant. For more information, visit the Contact Brant website.


A single-entry access point of referral for child and youth mental health issues and developmental services in Brant. For more information, visit the Woodview website.

Woodview Brantford Programs

For more information about Woodview programs in Brantford, please visit