Return to School

Previous Messages

Previous Reopening Communications

List of 18 items.

  • September 28: A Community Update on COVID-19 Mitigation

    Dear Branksome Community,

    Last week was a challenging week for many students, families and employees. It was the first time we experienced the reality of a community member with COVID-19. This morning we distributed a message about a probable student case in the Junior School, and we will be holding a Zoom meeting this evening to provide parents in Grade 5 with more information and the opportunity to ask questions. We will share the session’s recording with all parents tomorrow, as well as any important COVID-related updates for our community. We also held a meeting with the team in the Junior School to answer questions and discuss concerns.

    As noted by Premier Doug Ford in his press conference earlier this afternoon, the province of Ontario is seeing a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases, with a record-high number of cases being recorded today. There are a number of things you can do to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, including:
    The provincial government also announced today that they will be investing in more frontline healthcare workers and caregivers to ensure Ontario’s healthcare system can meet a surge in demand.

    An Update on Mask-Wearing in Grades 7-12
    As we know, our choices, actions and behaviours impact each other in real and tangible ways. For this reason, Mrs. Kniaz, Head of the Senior & Middle School, spoke to students in Grades 7-12 today about a change that is needed to our on-campus behaviour to ensure the health and safety of our entire community. Please view her message to students here.

    Starting immediately, masks will be required indoors and outdoors at all times for Grades 7-12 students and East Campus employees on campus. It is essential that we remember that wearing a mask does not mean that we can be closer together. Two-metre physical distancing is non-negotiable: it must be maintained at all times.

    In order to help students to develop a spatial awareness for two-metre physical distancing, it is important that mask-wearing and physical distancing apply consistently to all aspects of school life. For this reason, Grades 7-12 students will also be required to wear masks for HPE and athletics activities that involve students moving freely in the playing area. Students will be permitted to remove their masks during physical activities where the teacher or coach is able to clearly delineate and enforce two-metre physical distancing for the duration of the activity.

    Students and employees are permitted to remove their masks when eating and drinking. Two-metre physical distancing must be maintained and masks should be promptly put back on as soon as you finish. We will monitor progress for the next two weeks and will revisit the requirement for masks outdoors after the Thanksgiving weekend. We must see all Grades 7-12 students demonstrate consistent two-metre physical distancing when indoors and outdoors before we can consider allowing masks off outdoors.

    Update Your Contact Information, and Health-Related Resources
    In order to ensure we can communicate all updates with parents and employees in a timely manner, please ensure the school has your up-to-date email and mobile number for any time-sensitive communications. Parents can do this via your Contact Card on the Portal (in the top-right corner where you see your name, click ‘Profile’ and you will see your Contact Card). Employees should send their current cell phone number to Human Resources, if they have not done so in the spring.

    Please note that if anyone in your household tests positive for COVID-19, we are asking that as a first point of contact, parents and students contact the Branksome Hall Health Centre. Our Health Centre checks emails throughout the evenings and weekends for COVID-related concerns. We ask that employees contact Human Resources.

    For health-related questions or concerns:
    Branksome Hall Health Centre: healthcentre@branksome.on.ca or 416-920-6265 ext. 229 (Monday-Friday 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
    Human Resources: Patricia DiNicolantonio or Sabba Khokhar

    For attendance-related questions or updates: attendance@branksome.on.ca

    For academic questions:
    Other helpful resources:
    For general questions, please contact Branksome Communications at: yourquestions@branksome.on.ca
     
    Thank you for your attention to this important message as we continue to work together to ensure our community’s health and well-being, and to rise to the challenges ahead with resilience and strength.

    Warm regards,

    Karen Jurjevich
    Principal
  • September 23: COVID-19 Webinar Recording and Other Important Resources

    Dear Branksome Community,

    Following our advisory on Monday about a positive case of COVID-19 at the school, we are writing to provide all parents with further information that may be helpful.

    While we are hopeful that this is an isolated case, we have planned for this and taken a number of proactive measures to keep our school community safe and healthy. As outlined in our advisory on Monday, we are working with Toronto Public Health, and we will continue to provide our community with updates in a timely way by email and on our school website and Portal.

    We encourage parents and guardians to be watchful of any symptoms, and to seek testing as well as contact the Health Centre if students present with any symptoms.

    Webinar Recording and FAQs
    Last night we held a Grade 8 parent webinar to provide parents in that grade with an update and an opportunity to ask any questions they may have. The information discussed may be helpful for all parents, so you can view the webinar recording here.

    We also have prepared an FAQ document which provides responses to the most commonly asked questions from our community.

    Other Important Reminders & Resources
    All Grade 8 cohorts will resume in-person learning for the second segment, beginning on October 8. Siblings of students in the affected classes may attend school, according to Toronto Public Health. The siblings should only remain home and self-isolate if they or a household member develops symptoms. If this is the case, the unwell individual should seek testing at a COVID-19 Assessment Centre and notify the Health Centre.

    We appreciate how unsettling this situation may feel for everyone. There are many resources available to support our community, including those on our Return to School website and our Health & Well-Being resource board on the Portal. This week, students in Grades 7-12 will have an opportunity to discuss further in Advisor on Thursday, and Guidance Counsellors will be hosting small group drop-ins.

    If you have any questions of a health-related nature, please contact the Health Centre. Open Monday through Friday (excluding school holidays) from 7:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Questions can be answered via email at healthcentre@branksome.on.ca or by phone at 416-920-6265 ext. 229.

    For all other questions, please write to yourquestions@branksome.on.ca.

    Warm regards,

    Karen Jurjevich
    Principal
  • September 21: An Important COVID-19 Advisory

    Dear Branksome Community,

    Late this afternoon, we received confirmation that an employee has tested positive for COVID-19. The faculty member began exhibiting signs consistent with the virus over the weekend, underwent testing, and is now recovering at home in self-isolation.

    We are hopeful that this is an isolated case but are taking proactive measures to keep our school community safe and healthy. We have advised Toronto Public Health, who are focusing on contact tracing beginning on September 17. Those who were in contact with the employee prior to that date are not considered high risk. To protect the privacy and confidentiality of the employee, we are not permitted to disclose any further information of a personal nature.

    The employee was on campus teaching Grade 8 classes on Friday, September 18. As a precautionary measure and given the cross-over of cohorts, Branksome Hall has made the difficult decision to have the entire Grade 8 class self-monitor and engage solely in online learning for the remainder of this academic segment.

    All Grade 8 cohorts will resume the hyflex model of in-person and online learning for the second segment, beginning on October 8. According to Toronto Public Health, siblings of students in the affected classes may attend school.

    We will continue to work closely with Toronto Public Health, and we encourage you to be extra watchful of any symptoms and seek testing if your child presents with any symptoms. If you or your child do not present with any symptoms, please do not seek testing at assessment centres as they are managing high volumes and you are likely to be turned away.

    We will provide you with any further updates by email and on our school website and Portal. If you have any questions, please direct them to Amanda Kennedy at the Junior School and Kim Kniaz at the Middle and Senior School.

    We recognize how challenging this is for you and your child as we are only two weeks into the academic year. Thank you for your understanding, patience, support and flexibility. Our priority will always be the health and safety of your child and our broader community.

    Sincerely,

    Karen Jurjevich
    Principal

    Updated: September 22, 2020
  • September 14: An Important Reminder about Health & Safety Protocols

    Dear Branksome Community,

    After six months away, Grades 7-12 students returned to campus last week understandably excited to see each other. We recognize that new daily routines and behaviours are challenging for all of us, and we are all working to solidify new ways of interacting.

    A Reminder of the Need for Student Compliance
    In the first week back at school, we saw variations in student compliance with health and safety measures, with many students not taking two-metre physical distancing or mask-wearing seriously enough. For many students, it appears that if they are outside, they do not feel mask-wearing is necessary and they are not staying at a two-metre distance. The school has received a number of calls and concerns from parents, employees, students and neighbours.

    It is important that we all remember that even when wearing a mask, two-metre physical distancing must be maintained when indoor or outdoors and when walking to and from school on the narrow neighbourhood sidewalks. These new behaviors apply to student’s daily routines at Branksome and to their life outside of school.

    Our Community Commitment to Health & Safety
    All students, parents and employees have been asked to affirm their commitment to adhering to Toronto Public Health's guidelines when on and off campus by signing the Branksome Hall Community Commitments. These commitments outline a shared community agreement to take all necessary steps to stay well and consistently protect the health and safety of ourselves and the entire community for the 2020-2021 academic year.

    This includes practising two-metre physical distancing, mask-wearing and avoiding large gatherings outside of school hours. We also remind parents, as noted on our Return to School site, that for the safety of our community, no visitors, including parents, will be allowed in campus buildings unless deemed essential to daily operations.

    As a school, we have instituted many health and safety protocols, including two-metre physical distancing and mask-wearing for all students and employees when indoors. Masks are one of the top ways to prevent the spread of respiratory droplets and they are an important preventative layer in our risk mitigation plan. Masks are most effective when used in combination with physical distancing measures.

    As a reminder, physical distancing means making changes in your everyday routines in order to minimize close contact with others, including:
    • avoiding crowded places and social gatherings
    • avoiding common greetings, such as handshakes and hugs
    • keeping a distance of at least two arms’ lengths (approximately two metres) from others, both indoors and outdoors.
    To ensure the health and safety of all community members, and to provide everyone on campus with a reasonable sense of security, we must all agree to adhere to our shared expectations. We must each acknowledge that what we do both within and outside of Branksome Hall directly impacts the health and safety of each individual member of the school community.

    We also know that student compliance, and responsible decision-making, is only possible when there is alignment between home and school expectations. We require all parents and guardians to reinforce Toronto Public Health’s guidelines and to help your daughters to build and practise the skills and behaviours that ensure the health and safety of the entire Branksome community.

    Thank you for your collaboration and for supporting your daughter(s) in understanding their shared responsibility for compliance with expectations and protocols that serve our community's health and wellness.

    Warm regards,

    Kim Kniaz
    Head, Senior & Middle School
  • September 4: Junior School Student Lunch Program Ordering - Time-Sensitive

    Dear Branksome Community,

    This year, Aramark is offering Junior School students a hot lunch option that can be ordered by learning segment, with the first segment of the program beginning on Monday, September 14 and ending on October 5, 2020. Lunch will include a hot meal, drink and afternoon snack and will be delivered to your daughter’s classroom.

    Information on Lunch Program Ordering:
    • To enrol in the lunch program for the first learning segment, please visit the Aramark ordering website (you may wish to bookmark it for future use).
    • Please note that orders for the week of the program’s launch, which starts Monday, September 14, must be received by Monday, September 7. We understand this is a tight deadline and appreciate your flexibility. Future orders must be placed one week in advance of the beginning of the learning segment.
    • On the website, please create an account (see ‘Need an account?’ link).
    • After logging in, select ‘BHEats’ from the top row and then ‘Junior School’ (JK- Gr. 6). You can then navigate the menu, and place your order.
    • The cost ($8.00 per meal) will be billed to your account. Please select your daughter’s grade lunchtime; meals will be delivered to classrooms, where students will eat their lunch.
    • At the final step, you will be asked to enter your daughter’s student number.
    Should you have any questions about the meals or ordering process, please contact Julie Trudeau.

    Kind regards,

    Elliot Brodkin
    Executive Director, Finance & Administration
  • September 4: Senior and Middle School Student Lunch Program Ordering

    Dear Branksome Community,

    This year, Aramark is offering Senior & Middle School students a cold lunch option that can be ordered on a day-to-day basis, with the program beginning on Monday, September 21. We are staggering the start of the Aramark lunch program in the Senior & Middle School to allow for classrooms and schedules to be confirmed before food is delivered, to support students’ health and safety. Students may choose from several sandwich or salad options. Please note that there are no additional items or drinks, so students should bring these from home.

    This Fall, orders will be placed in segments, with the first segment period ending as of October 5, 2020. Dates and details for future ordering will be shared as they are available.

    Information on Lunch Program Ordering:
    • To order lunch, please visit the Aramark ordering website (you may wish to bookmark it for future use).
    • Please note that orders for the week of the S&MS program’s launch, which starts Monday, September 21, must be received by Monday, September 14. Future orders must be placed one week in advance.
    • On the website, please create an account (see ‘Need an account?’ link).
    • After logging in, select ‘BHEats’ from the top row and then ‘Senior School’ (for all Gr. 7-12 students). You can then navigate the menu, and place your order. (Please note: When placing your orders, please make sure you place one order per day. For example, the lunch menu options may be the same on a Monday as they are on a Tuesday, with 3-4 options each day. You can choose the same option for both days or a different option for each day, but we require you to go through the order and checkout process for each day. No multiple orders on any given day.)
    • The cost ($7.50 per Senior/Middle School meal) will be billed to your account. Please select a specific time; meals will be delivered to classrooms, where students will eat their lunch. Senior and Middle School students should consult their timetables ahead of time to determine where they will eat lunch, and enter that room in the ordering system.
    • At the final step, you will be asked to enter a student number. This can be found on the access card.
    Should you have any questions about the meals or ordering process, please contact Julie Trudeau.

    Kind regards,

    Elliott Brodkin
    Executive Director, Finance & Administration
  • September 4: Virtual Students’ Orientation on September 9

    Dear Branksome Community,

    We are excited to begin the 2020-21 school year with you! As our on-campus students will be building community together on Wednesday, we are looking forward to doing the same with you through our Virtual Students’ Orientation on Wednesday, September 9.

    Virtual students new to Branksome will attend a general Orientation, including an introduction to the School Portal and laptop support, to ensure they are ready to engage when classes begin.

    All returning virtual students will then join the event for grade breakout rooms, with activities led by teachers and student leaders.

    A Q&A session will follow for all students where more support for technology and school routines will be shared.

    Agenda for Virtual Orientation Session
    The agenda for this session, to be held on Zoom, is as follows:

    8:00 a.m. E.S.T. - All new to Branksome virtual students
    8:30 a.m. E.S.T. - All returning virtual students will join the call with the new students
    9:15 a.m. E.S.T - A Q&A session for all students with Dr. Siamak Booromand, Assistant Head, Operations

    The Zoom link for all students to join at their appointed time is: https://branksomehall.zoom.us/j/3568557156

    In preparation for Wednesday’s Zoom session, please email any questions you have to Ms. MacInnis at amacinnis@branksome.on.ca by Monday, September 7 at 12:00 p.m. so we can be sure to cover them at our session together on Wednesday.

    We look forward to seeing you on Wednesday.

    Best regards,

    Kim Kniaz
    Head, Senior & Middle School

    Ashli MacInnis
    Director of Admissions
  • September 3: A Warm Welcome to Our New Head, Senior & Middle School and New Employees

    Dear Branksome Community,

    As we prepare for our students’ return to school next week, this is an opportune time to share some exciting employee updates with our community.

    Kim Kniaz Appointed Head, Senior & Middle School
    We are delighted to formally announce the appointment of Ms. Kim Kniaz as our new Head, Senior and Middle School, effective July 1, 2020. This role was re-introduced as part of the leadership model aimed at placing well-being and social-emotional development at the heart of the student experience. The Head will ensure cohesion, cross-collaboration and the integration of functions across the Senior & Middle School.

    Through the lens of International Mindedness, Ms. Kniaz will lead the integration of the student experience, wellbeing, academics and student life. Relationships and communications with parents, as well as the smooth operation of the Senior & Middle School, will also be key elements of her portfolio. A member of the Senior Leadership Team, Ms. Kniaz reports to Karrie Weinstock, Deputy Principal.

    Ms. Kniaz has held a number of leadership roles at Branksome Hall, including her most recent position as the Assistant Head of the Senior and Middle School, CAS. As a member of the International Baccalaureate Educators (IBEN) Network, she is an experienced Workshop Leader, Site Team member, Building Quality Curriculum Reviewer and Independent School Curriculum Consultant. At Branksome, as an Instructional Leader, she led the curriculum review and unit planning for the MYP Health and Physical Education curriculum.

    In addition to being a member of the Risk Management Team, Ms. Kniaz led the Installation and Graduation Working Groups, bringing significant changes to these signature Branksome events. She also led the Week Without Halls Working Group and the Calendar Working Group. Ms Kniaz is an innovative leader who is committed to creating the future at Branksome.

    Prior to joining the Branksome community, Ms. Kniaz held teaching and Physical Education positions at Upper Canada College, the New International School of Thailand and the American International School in Egypt. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Wilfrid Laurier University and her Bachelor of Education degree from Queen’s University.

    Please join me in congratulating Ms. Kniaz on her appointment as Head, Senior & Middle School, and wishing her well as she steps into this important role.

    Welcoming New Employees
    It’s always wonderful to welcome new faces to Branksome Hall. This year, we’d like to extend a warm Branksome welcome to 17 new employees. To learn more about these talented and experienced new members of our community, please visit this link.

    Familiar Faces Returning From Leave and in New Roles
    We are also pleased to be welcoming familiar faces returning from leave as well as those who are taking up new roles:

    Kelly Longmore
    ESL Coordinator, S&MS English Teacher, now Director, Boarding

    Niro Nagendran
    Returning from leave as Administrative Assistant, Guidance

    Dona Nilanka
    Returning from leave as Student Billing Clerk

    Andrea Russell
    Returning from leave as Junior School Teacher

    Scott Fleming
    Athletic Director + Rowing Coach and WWH Coordinator

    Claudia Guarrasi
    Lab Tech and Supply Teacher

    Vanessa Jattan
    Junior School Associate Teacher

    Paige Murray
    Junior School, Administrative Assistant

    Jaslyn Prihar
    Junior School Associate Teacher

    Deann Rousseau
    Service Learning Coordinator

    Carolina Sabayle
    Accounts Payable

    Melissa Shaddick
    ESL Coordinator

    Paulina Su
    Learning Strategies Teacher and Senior Boarding Advisor

    Tammy van der Walt
    Junior School Associate Teacher

    Teaching and supporting students is meaningful work—it’s a calling. We are called upon to deliver in the most critical sense, and I believe that the value of this work in schools has never been more recognized for its importance and essentiality to society.

    While back to school may look different this year, I am confident that we are well prepared given the excellence, adaptability and resilience of our Branksome community.

    I wish you all a wonderful start to the school year, and look forward to seeing you soon, whether it be on campus or online.

    Warm regards,

    Karen L. Jurejvich
    Principal
  • September 2: Important Information on Junior School Daily Health Screening

    Dear Branksome Community,

    As part of our efforts to keep our school community safe this year, we are introducing a daily health screening procedure. The entire Branksome community plays a critical role in creating a culture of self-monitoring. To support this process, we have created an easy, secure online form using JotForm software, where Junior School parents can complete the daily screening within a few minutes. We will review the screening lists each weekday morning. We ask that this process be completed by 7:30 a.m. each weekday, and it will be important for you as parents to ensure that it has been completed.

    Instructions on How to Complete the Screening:
    • To complete the screening, simply go to the following link using a laptop, tablet or smartphone: https://form.jotform.com/202314541542040. You may wish to bookmark the provided link for easy access each day.
    • When you begin your screening form, begin by completing the identification information in the form and then answer each of the screening questions within the form. When you have completed the screening, simply click on the ‘Submit’ button.
    • If you have passed your screening, you will see a message like the one below. Please print or screen capture this so you can display it upon arrival at the school.
    • Should you be presented with the message on the screen below, this means that based on the responses provided in the Daily Screening, we have determined that your child must remain at home that day, and a member from the Health Centre will be in touch with you to discuss.
     
    Demonstration Video
    For a demonstration of how the screening works, this link will take you to a demonstration video which provides an example of a sample screening.

    Other Important Information to Note:
    • When students are learning on campus, parents must complete the JotForm screening, Monday-Friday and before 7:30 a.m. During school holidays or vacation time, screening does not need to be completed.
    • Students may proceed to campus only if approval is provided by the software.
    • Students will be asked to remain in their cars until screening is confirmed by the supervising employee, before entering the Junior School buildings. Those who are walking or biking to school will need to remain in their designated outdoor waiting area until they check-in with the supervising employee, before entering the Junior School buildings.
    • Students who arrive on campus after 9:20 a.m. are required to go to the Junior School Office to confirm screening and sign in.
    • If screening indicates a restricted access, parents must notify the Junior School Office (ext. 237) to update attendance. If deemed appropriate, students may learn from home. The Health Centre will stay in touch with the parents to ensure appropriate testing and isolation protocols are being followed and a safe return to campus occurs. Please note that if a student arrives on campus when access has been restricted, they will be referred to the Health Centre for immediate isolation. The parent will be contacted and asked to pick up their child.
    Thank you for your cooperation. We recognize there are a number of new technologies that we are learning together for this upcoming year, and that this takes time and effort. These screening procedures will keep our community safer now and in the future, so your time spent learning and supporting this is greatly appreciated.

    Should you have any questions about the form or if you experience any technical difficulties, please contact itsupport@branksome.on.ca.

    Warm regards,

    Amanda Kennedy
    Head, Junior School
  • September 1: Community Connection Day on September 9

    Dear Branksome Community,

    We are excited to welcome all students, teachers and staff back to Branksome on Wednesday, September 9 for Community Connection Day. Programming will run from 8:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. for Grades 7 to 9, and 12:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. for Grades 10 to 12. Each Grade has been assigned a specific drop-off location and time as outlined in the schedule here.

    Students will spend the time getting to know their peers and teachers, and participating in community-building activities, including a Neighborhood Walk. Students are asked to wear Fit Friday attire and to prepare for rain or shine activities. Students are encouraged to bring a small backpack with a hat, sunscreen, water bottle, rain gear, and an umbrella. Students will receive additional information, including their Activity Group meeting location, in an email on Tuesday September 8, 2020.

    For students who will be participating in the Virtual Branksome experience, you will receive a link to the Virtual Branksome Community Connection Day.

    Neighbourhood Walk: Permission Form Due Friday, September 4
    Parent permission is required for student participation in the Neighbourhood Walk. Parents/guardians are asked to complete the permission form using this link by Friday, September 4, 2020 at 12:00 p.m.

    Important Reminders for Your Return to Campus
    A few important reminders for your return to campus:
    • Health and safety remains our top priority. All students must complete the Titan HST COVID-19 screening process prior to 7:30 a.m.
    • All students must wear a mask indoors. Students will be permitted to remove their masks when distanced outdoors. Students will practise good hand hygiene and will maintain physical distancing at all times.
    On behalf of the entire Branksome staff, we are very excited to see everyone back on campus and very much look forward to reconnecting.

    Warm regards,

    Kim Kniaz
    Head, Senior & Middle School
  • September 1: Senior and Middle School Parent Virtual Information Session Webinar Recording

    Dear Branksome Community,

    Thank you for your much-appreciated questions, comments and feedback at last Tuesday’s Senior and Middle School Virtual Information Session Webinar. If you were not able to attend the webinar, please see the recording here.

    As many of you requested, I am also providing a pdf of the webinar presentation here. I also wanted to let you know that we will be regularly updating our Return to School site, including the FAQ section.

    Should you have any follow-up questions or comments, please email yourquestions@branksome.on.ca and add your daughter's grade in the subject line of the email.

    Warm regards,

    Kim Kniaz
    Head, Senior and Middle School
  • August 31: Junior School Parent Virtual Information Session Webinar Recording

    Dear Branksome Community,

    Thank you for your much-appreciated questions, comments and feedback at last Wednesday’s Junior School Virtual Information Session Webinar. If you were not able to attend the webinar, please see the recording here.

    As many of you requested, I am also providing a PDF of the webinar presentation here. I also wanted to let you know that we will be regularly updating our Return to School site, including the FAQ section.

    Should you have any follow-up questions or comments, please email yourquestions@branksome.on.ca and add your daughter's grade in the subject line of the email.

    Warm regards,

    Amanda Kennedy
    Head, Junior School
  • August 25: Supporting a Mentally Healthy Return to School

    Dear Branksome Community,

    We are looking forward to being together again in September after what educator and author Karen Gross calls the “Corona Gap.” During this time, each of us has been challenged to adapt and acclimatize to significant change. The skills and knowledge we acquired will serve us well—adults and young people alike—as we enter the upcoming school year. As September approaches, there are likely a range of emotions associated with our return to in-person and online learning. These might include, but are not limited to, anticipation, curiosity, hope, worry, relief, sadness, excitement, uncertainty, fear and nostalgia as we long for things to be as they once were. As Dr. Marc Brackett notes in his book, Permission to Feel, all emotions are valid and we, parents and children, can experience a range of emotions and emotional intensity, within the span of a day—or even an hour!

    At Branksome, we are deeply committed to promoting and supporting a mentally and physically safe return to school for all members of our community. Coping with the myriad of changes in our daily lives and routines as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic invites our entire community to lean into and actively practise skills that support our emotional health, help us build and maintain strong relationships, and promote our resilience as we navigate this new normal. By focusing on these three “buckets” for the Senior and Middle School and for the Junior School, we are inviting learning and skill development across the 5 Core Social-Emotional Learning Competencies of self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision making. Developing these SEL skills in students and adults is a key Branksome strategic priority because they lay the foundation for positive mental health and well-being.

    SEL work is best done with a strong home-school partnership. We consider you, our Branksome parents and guardians, our partners in supporting young people to feel grounded in their strengths and coping strategies as they return to school, following six challenging months away during the Corona Gap. Working together, we can adopt a similar approach and vocabulary to assist young people, of all ages, to bridge the two anchoring environments of home and school. It is helpful, in our daily conversations, to emphasize the importance of:
    1. Establishing self-care routines: healthy nutrition, regular exercise and adequate sleep.
    2. Accepting and managing worry or fear with positive self-talk and ‘coping dialogue,’ where we surface reminders of useful strategies and resources from previous experiences of coping with uncertainty, while making space for joy.
    3. Encouraging connections to school by continuing to build relationships and develop interests and community.
    Our teachers, advisors, homeroom teachers, boarding advisors, counsellors and social workers are in conversation about implementing best practices to enhance our students' emotional well-being as they return to school and move through their day and week. We are planning opportunities for discussion and ongoing conversations in class and in Advisor so that our students can regularly express their feelings and feel supported.

    In the weeks ahead, please let us know if your child needs additional support beyond the practices and resources we have in place so we can offer additional strategies to manage the return to school.

    We hope that through this time, you and your loved ones have found ways to feel appreciation and gratitude while caring for yourselves and each other. We look forward to partnering with you on your child’s continued social-emotional learning growth. These skills will support your child’s well-being and response to the demands of the unique circumstances of this school year and in their future lives.

    Best regards,

    Karrie Weinstock
    Deputy Principal

    Joelle Therriault
    Lead Social Worker

    Carolyn Mak
    Junior School Social Worker

    Jane Anne Tateishi
    Head, Student Support

    Joanne Colwell
    Director, Guidance and University Relations
  • August 24: Welcome Back Package: Return to School 2020-21

    Dear Branksome Community,

    It is my pleasure to welcome everyone back to our Branksome Hall campus, after this unusual period of summer holiday. While we all enjoyed such beautiful weather, we were also constrained due to COVID-19 and the many accompanying restrictions. Personally, I found the time to visit with family and friends and travel to the far north for some much-needed relaxation and canoeing at a fishing camp in northern Ontario.

    In just a few short weeks, we will be welcoming students back to Branksome Hall, and we are all awaiting the start of the academic year with great anticipation. Whether you have chosen on-campus or remote learning for your child, our students’ return to school is what has sustained us during these challenging months.

    Over the summer, we have been hard at work preparing for the return to school and the reopening of our campus. It has been challenging and complex to balance health and safety risks with the impact of continued school closures on our students’ and employees’ physical and mental health. With our careful preparations, based on what we know today, we are nevertheless well-positioned to deliver a safe and supportive learning and working environment. Our plan is grounded by consultation with our community, and informed by Ministry of Education guidelines and evidence-based public health resources.

    As we move forward with plans for our reopening, our priority is to ensure and sustain the health, safety and well-being of all members of our community. To that end, our preparations are aligned with our guiding principles. To maximize our safety, we are using a layered approach to risk mitigation, with multiple, overlapping protective measures in play. Key to this approach is decreasing the number of interactions between individuals, wherever possible; planning for a flexible pivot between virtual, hybrid and on-campus learning; and recognizing our shared responsibility for our communal health and wellness.

    Back to School Looks Different This Year
    As we prepare to return to school, we know we are returning to a very different school. In the interest of health and safety, there are many new routines and things to get accustomed to—masks, physical-distancing requirements, daily health screening and monitoring, enhanced hygiene practices, floor markings and wall signage to direct flow around campus, and more. While it is unavoidable that on-campus life will take some adjustment, we know our community is committed to rising to this challenge with flexibility, resilience, collegiality and openness.

    Just as Branksome Hall transformed into Virtual Branksome in what felt like the blink of an eye in response to the outbreak of the pandemic in March, this hard-won expertise, perspective and hindsight positions us well to prepare for and adapt as a community to fully virtual, fully on-campus or a hybrid model, as future circumstances may require. Our goal is to be as flexible and agile as possible so we can respond to the fluid nature of the pandemic in a timely way.

    Extensive investment in reconfiguring our campus spaces and purchasing personal protective equipment has been made. We are committed to a model to reduce density and adhere to a two-metre distancing rule at all times. We have hired supply teachers and classroom assistants, dedicated solely to Branksome Hall, to support physical distancing requirements and provide teacher classroom coverage as needed. Other initiatives include staggered start and end times, and a modified athletics and co-curricular program.

    Return to School Resources
    A number of resources are available to support you and your daughter in returning to school:
    Community Commitment
    The health and safety of our community of students, employees and parents is a shared responsibility. We ask that one parent from each family sign our Community Commitment—an online form on the Portal confirming you have read and agree to adhere to our shared behavioural guidelines to affirm our collective responsibility and ensure we protect ourselves and each other in the 2020-21 academic year.

    As part of our multilayered approach to reducing the risk of COVID-19 in our community, Branksome Hall will also require all students, faculty and staff to complete a daily health screening form by downloading and using the TitanHST app. If any COVID-19 symptoms are noted during the daily health screening, the student or employee will not attend school and will follow Health Centre guidelines. More information on TitanHST will be shared with parents and students shortly.

    Upcoming Virtual Information Session Webinars
    We are also looking forward to seeing you at this week’s Virtual Parent Information Session Webinars. If you haven’t yet registered, you may still attend. Due to the number of registrants, we have moved the session to a webinar format, to accommodate as many parents as possible.
    • Virtual Parent Information Session for Senior & Middle School on Tuesday, August 25 from 4:00-5:30 p.m. To register, please use this updated link.
    • Virtual Parent Information Session for Junior School on Wednesday, August 26 from 4:00-5:30 p.m. To register, please use this updated link.
    A confirmation email with the webinar link will be sent after you register. As communicated initially, the purpose of these information sessions is to present our concepts for the Junior School and Senior & Middle School reopening and to share some of the things we have worked on throughout the summer, including our hybrid models for learning.

    We will also be sharing recordings of the sessions, if you find yourself unable to attend or wish to review. Please feel free to send your questions and comments in advance to yourquestions@branksome.on.ca.

    These past months have sharpened our focus on what is truly valuable to us. Despite the uncertainty and challenges, this has also been a period of great creativity, innovation and teamwork, as so many across our community have come together to ensure the continued delivery of the high-quality instruction for which Branksome is known, while working to sustain our vibrant student and campus life experience. A similar message has gone to students in Grades 7-12 today with welcome back resources.

    I am grateful for our resilient, innovative and adaptable community. When we do come together, I know our in-person connections will feel especially meaningful. I am sure we all will be placing greater value upon, and cherishing, the spontaneous moments of conversation, inspiration, laughter and learning we have missed so very much.

    Warm regards,

    Karen L. Jurjevich
    Principal
  • August 14: You’re Invited: Junior School Parent Virtual Information Session

    Dear Branksome Community,

    As part of our Reopening Plan for the 2020-21 school year, we are inviting you to attend a Junior School Parent Virtual Information Session on Wednesday, August 26 from 4:00-5:30 p.m.

    To register for this event, please click here.

    The purpose of this information session is to present our concepts for the Junior School reopening in September and to share some of the things we have worked on throughout the summer, including our hybrid models for learning.

    Your participation in the information session will allow us to help you have a clearer idea of what the new school year will look like and to let us know about any of your questions or concerns. We appreciate your feedback and would like to ask you to submit any questions ahead of time to yourquestions@branksome.on.ca. Please indicate your student’s name and grade (in September) in the subject line.

    For those of you who are unable to attend, we will be sharing a recording of the session following the event.

    I hope to see you there.

    Kind regards,

    Amanda Kennedy
    Head, Junior School
  • August 13: You’re Invited: Senior and Middle School Parent Virtual Information Session

    Dear Branksome Community,

    As part of our Reopening Plan for the 2020-21 school year, we are inviting you to attend a Senior and Middle School Parent Virtual Information Session on Tuesday, August 25 from 4:00-5:30 p.m.

    To register for this event, please click here.

    The purpose of this information session is to present our concepts for the Senior and Middle School reopening in September and to share some of the things we have worked on throughout the summer, including our hybrid models for learning.

    Your participation in the information session will allow us to help you have a clearer idea of what the new school year will look like and to let us know about any of your questions or concerns.

    We always appreciate your feedback and would like to ask you to submit any questions ahead of time to yourquestions@branksome.on.ca. Please indicate your student’s name and grade (in September) in the subject line.

    For those of you who are unable to attend, we will be sharing a recording of the session following the event.

    I hope to see you there.

    Kind regards,

    Kim Kniaz
    Head, Senior & Middle School
  • August 6: An Update on School Reopening

    Dear Branksome Community,

    I hope you are enjoying the warmth and sunshine of the remaining weeks of the summer break with family and friends.

    As you may be aware, last week the Ministry of Education announced its plans for the return to school in September, including guidelines around full-day, five-day attendance for children from Kindergarten to Grade 8; adapted instructional models for Secondary students, with class cohorts of approximately 15 students; no specific physical distancing measures; and the required wearing of non-medical or cloth masks for students in Grades 4-12.

    We have reviewed in detail the Ministry’s Guide to Reopening Ontario’s Schools, and in keeping with our guiding principles, we have decided, with some updates, to stay the course with our original academic modelling and the health and safety protocols that were communicated to our community in mid-July.

    Our reopening model prioritizes the health and safety of our students, employees and parents, while supporting academic success, wellbeing and a commitment to the full student experience. We will continue to follow the guidance of medical authorities and implement a plan that meets and exceeds the Ministry’s guidelines and protocols.

    Branksome Hall’s Reopening Model
    Our approach is to remain flexible, recognizing that circumstances may change depending on the progression of COVID-19. To limit the impact on our students’ learning, we may need to respond swiftly and shift between the three models (conventional/fully on campus; hybrid; or fully virtual). The current model allows us to accommodate students who wish to remain fully virtual. Below are highlights of our reopening plans, noting that further changes are still possible in the upcoming weeks as we continue to refine our model.

    School-Wide Health and Safety Protocols
    • We will maintain a two-metre physical distancing requirement across the school, with group sizes no larger than 15 students.
    • Students in Grades 4-12 will be required to wear masks in the classroom.
    • Masks will be worn by all students and employees in all common and high-traffic areas within the school.
    • Medical masks and eye protection (i.e. face shields) will be provided to employees.
    • We will implement staggered start and end times.
    • For all classrooms across the campus, there will be enhancements to facilities, cleaning protocols, AEGIS spray, and health and safety protocols.
    • We will implement home screening, attendance management, illness and hygienic protocols.
    • We will conduct employee and student health and safety protocol training and education.
    The Junior School (JK-Grade 6)
    • Junior School students will have classes on campus all day, Monday to Friday.
    • To accommodate two-metre physical distancing protocols, classes will be held across the West Campus, including the Junior School and the Athletics and Wellness Centre (AWC), with the allocation of facilities and spaces made based on students’ age and stage.
    • Classes will be grouped in cohorts to a maximum size of 15, distanced at two-metres.
    • We will offer after care at a very limited capacity. We are exploring online co-curricular offerings and will continue with online Conservatory lessons.
    The Middle and Senior Schools (Grades 7-12)
    • Both the Middle and Senior Schools will reopen on an adapted schedule with 50 per cent in-person time for students and teachers.
    • Classes will be assigned two classrooms, each with groups limited to fewer than 15, distanced at two-metres, and the subject teacher will move between the two classes. An accompanying supervision model is currently being developed.
    • Grades 7-12 students will cohort by grade and will maintain a two-metre physical distancing requirement. The entire grade will be split into smaller groups of a maximum of 15 students, with each grade’s classes attending school on alternating days and with robust online learning on the days students are at home.
    • On online days, Middle School students will have mandatory synchronous classes and Senior School classes will have the option to meet synchronously or be assigned asynchronous materials, according to the teacher’s plan. We believe this maximizes academic success as well as supports health and wellbeing for our students and employees.
    • We will reduce adult density on the East Campus by having Middle and Senior School teachers coming to campus on alternating days.
    • We will provide modified athletics and co-curricular programming, including planning for as much outdoor physical education as possible, and we have arranged a modified at-school version of Week Without Halls.
    Return to School Survey: Instructional Delivery Selection (20-Day Segment)
    Given that in-person attendance at school is voluntary, to assist us in planning for physical distancing and cohorting in our campus spaces, we are asking all parents to complete this Instructional Delivery Selection form on the Portal by Wednesday, August 12.

    Parents are asked to indicate via this form whether their student(s) will be committed to registering as an on-campus student for the first 20-day segment of the school year (i.e. until Thanksgiving break), or whether they elect to remain in fully online learning. Parents will have an opportunity to revisit this decision for the second segment before the first 20 days have passed.

    Looking Ahead
    You can expect to receive a Welcome Back package with further information the week of August 17. We also will be hosting parent webinars with the Heads of the Junior and Senior/Middle Schools in the week of August 24, so please watch for those invitations shortly. These sessions will provide an opportunity for families to familiarize themselves with the protocols, ask questions and make any necessary preparations for the beginning of the school year. In the meantime, please send your questions to yourquestions@branksome.on.ca.

    We recognize the ongoing uncertainty and ambiguity is challenging, and we appreciate your patience as we continue to develop the safest reopening plan possible for our students and employees. We look forward to the opening of school in September and to welcoming your daughter back to Branksome.

    Best regards,

    Karrie Weinstock
    Deputy Principal
  • July 13: Initial Decisions about Fall 2020

    Dear Branksome Community,

    We hope your summer is going well so far, and that you and your families are finding ways to unplug and recharge. We are writing today to share with you our modelling and school reopening plans for the Fall.

    While a number of details still need to be worked out, and the announcement expected from the Ministry of Education in early August may impact some of our planning, we want to update you on our initial decisions for reopening our Junior School, Senior & Middle School, as well as our Boarding program. We are also sharing today a preliminary outline of what we can expect campus life to look like for the initial months of the academic year.

    Shaping Fall 2020 for Students
    Let me begin by thanking all of our families who provided feedback in webinar sessions, parent surveys or by email, and whose input is reflected in the shaping of our plans. As I stated in the parent webinars in June, our first choice will be, if it is possible, to open the school as usual, with all students on campus every day, all day, as a community.

    To ensure we plan carefully for what lies ahead, I am working closely with a Transition Team that includes the Senior Leadership and Risk Management groups to prepare for various possible scenarios and to develop safety protocols and procedures. The group is moving through important reopening considerations, such as keeping the density of students as low as possible on campus, while maintaining the flexibility we will need to adapt to changing public health concerns and requirements. Many of these considerations are outlined below.

    Health and Safety
    To mitigate the spread of illness within the Branksome Hall community, strategies have been implemented using guidance from government agencies, as well as infection prevention and exposure measures for communicable disease models.

    To raise awareness about these measures and to support the safe return of the Branksome Hall community to campus, a comprehensive suite of training, resources and communications are being prepared that are informed by provincial health and education requirements, and, starting in August, these will be shared with our community.

    Many of our families have been inquiring about policies around screening, testing and the use of masks on campus. While these protocols are still in development, we encourage families to find, over the summer, a mask that will feel comfortable for your child as masks may be required indoors. In the meantime, the Transition Team at the school is working on a number of health and safety measures that include:
    • Signage and decals to ensure physical distancing and safe access to buildings.
    • Microbial AEGIS spray on all surfaces across the entire campus, along with routine cleaning and disinfecting of high-traffic areas and high touch surfaces.
    • Staggered start and end times.
    • Modified athletics and co-curricular programming, including planning for as much outdoor physical education as possible.
    • Implementation of explicit screening, illness and hygienic protocols.
    • Employee and student health and safety protocol training and education.
    We expect to communicate a decision regarding these protocols and others once we have more information from public health authorities.

    Our school architects have provided detailed drawings of our campus facilities that provide us with data regarding the number of students we can accommodate in our classrooms based on a two-metre distance rule. We are able to accommodate approximately 11-15 students per classroom or in alternative non-traditional spaces that can be adapted for learning and teaching. We have decided that gymnasiums will continue to be used for physical education classes.

    The Academic Models for 2020-21
    As you are aware, classes will begin on September 8. Our Academic Teams have been hard at work designing academic models in the Junior and Middle and Senior Schools that are in line with current Ministry of Education guidelines. These include physical distancing, cohorting students in small groups, hybrid learning and maximum flexibility to respond to an evolving environment—all while ensuring the academic and social-emotional wellbeing of our students. In designing our approach to our academic models, we followed these principles:
    • Flexibility to be fully on campus, fully virtual, or hybrid.
    • Reduce density.
    • Distancing at 2-metres apart.
    • Reduce cohort mixing.
    • Improve contact tracing.
    • Accommodate students who wish to be fully virtual.
    • Mitigate against loss of curricular time and maximize curriculum coverage.
    Junior School: Return to School Modelling Every Day, All Day
    In the Fall, the Junior School will be hosting classes on campus, all day, Monday to Friday. Virtual learning support will be provided to families based on individual circumstances and requests.
     
    To accommodate physical distancing protocols, classes will be held across the west campus, including the Junior School and the Athletics and Wellness Centre (AWC), with the allocation of facilities and spaces made based on the age and stage of the students.

    Maintaining the culture of a vibrant Junior School and strong academic program, balanced with the need for health and safety, is essential. To that end you can expect the following:
    • Daily literacy, numeracy, inquiry.
    • Specialist instruction.
    • Addition of Advisory groups to enhance small-group Social-Emotional Learning (SEL).
    • Grade-level recess times to maintain safe play during unstructured times.
    • Physical distancing and cohorting of students, requiring movement of teachers, with students staying in their classrooms.
    • Continuation of activities and events to support students’ social-emotional learning and well-being, including clan and spirit events, assemblies, Fit Fridays, and action initiatives.
    A brief video message from Amanda Kennedy, Head of Junior School and Erika Lo, Assistant Head and PYP Coordinator, will provide you with a clear and concise outline of the Junior School reopening model.

    Over the course of the fall academic term, there will be staggered pick-up and drop-off times. In addition, only school employees and students will be permitted inside the school buildings, for the safety of our community; this includes parents. We appreciate your understanding.

    Senior & Middle School: A Hybrid Learning, Modified Semester Model
    Our first choice is to open school as usual, with all students in attendance all day, every day. However, we will be able to move forward with that plan only if the province allows it. Currently, we anticipate activating a plan that respects cohorting of a maximum of 15 students in a space, and distancing of two-metres apart. This means we can accommodate about half of our Senior and Middle School students on campus at one time, alternating between learning on campus and learning online. To enable this scenario, we are looking at a hybrid learning model which will allow us to follow a modified semester program.

    The key factors underlying the decisions are:
    • Student and employee health and wellbeing
    • Academic success
    • Flexibility to pivot out of hybrid to a different mode—either fully on campus or fully online, according to what the Province’s evolving pandemic response will demand.
    From the health and wellbeing perspective, as it relates to the academic program, we need to create small cohorts of students with limited movement between spaces in the school, keeping students in different grade levels in separate zones within the school buildings. This will mean that, to the greatest extent possible, students in Grades 7-10 will work in the same homeroom groupings for the majority of their courses. For our Diploma students, where there is more personalization of course choices, a greater degree of movement may occur, still within defined zones and specified spaces in the school. To meet the cohorting requirements, half of each class will be on campus on any given day, while the other half engages with asynchronous materials and activities prepared by the class teacher.

    From a mental health and student well-being perspective, managing student workload is more important than ever as we plan for a robust online learning element. In our model, students will study half of their courses at once, allowing them to focus on a narrower range of material while still providing the intellectual stimulus of studying several courses together.

    This video message from Heather Friesen, Head, Curriculum Innovation and Professional Learning, and Kate Hebdon, Assistant Head, Academics, will provide you with details on the modelling for the academic program, including what the plan for the distribution of courses will look and feel like for students.

    We will continue to provide updates, including how students will access the online learning components, as we continue to develop the details.

    Boarding Program
    We are planning for the safe reopening of a smaller Boarding program in the Fall, with some modifications. Boarding students returning to school will be required to self-isolate for 14 days before arriving on campus, and we will be incorporating Orientation activities during this time to engage and support students. Reopening Boarding will require physical distancing measures, infection control protocols, robust student well-being supports as well as enhanced staffing and training. The modified Boarding model will involve a combination of some students on-campus and some learning virtually.

    Major Dates and Co-Curriculars
    We are currently building out the calendar in alignment with the model, including parent-teacher meetings and Professional Development days. We will republish Major Dates as soon as possible to reflect this fine-tuning.

    Advisor group meetings, co-curriculars and athletics are essential elements of school life, and we will ensure that these can take place in robust and meaningful ways. You will learn more about these opportunities before school opens.

    Regrettably, we are unable to plan for and proceed with overnight excursions. This includes international service learning trips and exchanges, the Grade 9 Study-Abroad Program, Week Without Halls and Norval excursions.

    We are looking at on-campus and in-person Week Without Halls programming that is outdoors as part of ReConnect Week, and we are also looking at a fully virtual program with Alive Outdoors in October.

    Modified Uniforms for 2020-21

    Junior School
    For students in the Junior School, the uniform remains unchanged, with the exception that we do not require blazers or ties for this year. We have added the expanded option of black pants/capris or BH navy pants. This gives families more choice in how their daughters dress. We also expect students in the Junior School to come to school in freshly laundered uniform clothes each day.

    JS Daily Uniform
    On the bottomOn the topShoesOther considerations
    KiltBH Polo shirtBlack shoes that take a shineTie, blazer not necessary
    SkortBH Button downOpen to all black walking shoe 
    TunicBH Green quarter-zip or BH V neckStudent will still require indoor and outdoor shoes 
    Black or Branksome navy Capri or long pants (no shorts)   
    Fit Friday on bottomFit Friday on top  
    BH sweat pants or black leggings (no other colours and designs)BHPE t-shirt | Clan T-shirt | Red PE Hoodie  

    Senior and Middle School
    As we prioritize student health and safety, we have modified the uniform for the 2020-21 school year for students in Grades 7-12. We continue to be a uniform school, while at the same time, we require our students to come to school each day in freshly laundered clothes. To avoid families having to purchase additional uniform items, please note the modified uniform expectations for Senior and Middle School students while on campus:

    Monday-ThursdayFriday (Fit Friday)
    On top: Branksome Hall green quarter-zip, v-neck, turtleneck, or polo shirt. White or black Branksome Hall Phys. Ed. shirtOn top: Any athletic top that has the Branksome Hall name or crest on it.
    Black track pant (BH or student’s own) or black yoga pant/leggingBlack track pant (BH or student’s own) or black yoga pant/legging
    Full length or capri length | No shortsFull length or capri length | No shorts
    Running shoesRunning shoes
    Please note: Senior and Middle School Students are not required to have a blazer, tie, or kilt this year.

    For your convenience, students and parents may make purchases via an online shop that will be available ahead of school opening. We will open the physical uniform shop on campus when safe to do so. A new form is now active for Senior & Middle School parents and ready for completion on the Portal to authorize billing of purchases to your account (both for the online shop and the physical shop once it opens). Should you have any questions or requests for personal uniform accommodations, please contact Siamak Boroomand, Assistant Head, Senior and Middle School, Operations.

    When will we know more about Fall 2020?
    As noted above, we will communicate final decisions with respect to school reopening to our parent and employee community in August, in line with expected announcements from the Ministry of Education.

    We will be offering Zoom webinars for all parents starting in mid-August, with dates and times to be confirmed shortly. At this time, we will share further details about school reopening and answer your questions about the model and school reopening. Should you have specific questions in the meantime, please write to yourquestions@branksome.on.ca.

    In closing, we look forward to having students and employees back on campus and bringing it alive with joy, laughter and the love of learning.

    Warm regards,

    Karen L. Jurjevich
    Principal

Branksome Hall

10 Elm Ave, Toronto, ON, Canada
M4W 1N4
Canada. South Korea
Toronto’s only all-girls, all-years, IB World School.
Study abroad in grade 9.