In a recent media release, Huron-Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson said that, “With the return to school this year, there are a lot of questions regarding safety protocol, policies, and procedures. Unfortunately, there is also a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding.”
Here are 10 actions that will help to ensure a safe return to school:
1. All staff and students must self-screen every day before attending school. Students and staff who are unwell must stay home from school. [link to covid-19.ontario.ca/self-assessment]
2. Schools must immediately report any suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 within the school to the local public health unit. Every day school boards must report suspected and confirmed cases within the school community to the ministry.
3. Students in Grades 4-12 will be required to wear non-medical or cloth masks indoors in school, including in hallways, entrances and during classes. Face coverings are not required but are encouraged for students up to Grade 3. The province is providing each school board funding to provide teachers and other school-based staff with medical masks and eye protection (for example, face shields).
4. Schools will teach students appropriate hand hygiene and provide breaks in schedules to allow students to wash their hands. Teachers and staff will also receive additional health and safety training.
5. Each student will be kept with the same group of children and teachers as much as possible throughout the school day. Additional teachers are being hired to support supervision, and keep classes close to funded averages.
6. Up to 625 new public health nurses are being hired to provide rapid-response support to schools and boards, and facilitate public health and preventative measures, including screening, testing, tracing and mitigation strategies.
7. Up to 1300 custodians are being hired and cleaning supplies provided to ensure each school is thoroughly cleaned throughout the day. School buses are also being cleaned regularly.
8. Schools will significantly limit visitors, including parents.
9. Schools will keep class attendance records, seating charts, lists of bused students, and approved daily visitors (e.g. supply and occasional teachers, custodians) for contact-tracing purposes.
10. Parental choice will be respected. In-person attendance is optional for both elementary and secondary students for the 2020-2021 school year. School boards will offer remote learning options, with multiple opportunities for classroom re-entry throughout the school year.
For more information, please visit Ontario.ca/ReopeningSchools
These are challenging times for us all, but I do believe Ontario has put forward the best plan for a safe return for our students, our teachers, our school staff and bus drivers.