Ontario Releases Plan For In-School Safety

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

TORONTO: The Ontario government has released the Operational Guidance: COVID-19 Management in Schools document. This guide was developed in consultation with public health experts, including Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, and aims to help schools identify and isolate COVID-19 cases, reduce the spread of COVID-19 in schools, and prevent and minimize outbreaks.

In addition, Dr. Dirk Huyer, who was recently the Executive Lead for the COVID-19 Testing Approach at the Command Table and is the Chief Coroner for Ontario, will serve as Coordinator, Provincial Outbreak Response.

Dr. Huyer will lead the province’s efforts to prevent and minimize COVID-19 outbreaks in a number of sectors, including education, child care, agriculture, and health care sectors.

Premier Ford said: “With medical experts helping to develop and support our plan, parents, teachers, and educators can be confident every measure has been taken to put the health and safety of students and staff first.”

The guidance document will help school boards and school authorities consistently implement prevention measures, maintain accurate records of staff, students, and visitors, work with their local public health units, and take appropriate action when staff, students, or visitors become ill during the school day.

It includes detailed instructions for a variety of different scenarios. It also outlines recommendations for what parents should do.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said: “We have the resources in place ― from nursing to testing and enhanced screening and cleaning ― to help prevent the spread, coupled with a comprehensive plan to respond to any challenge decisively, under the leadership of Dr. Huyer.”

Key elements of the document explain:

• The role of school boards and schools: keeping communities informed by creating a COVID-19 advisory section on both the board and school’s websites;

• The role of local public health units: leading case and contact tracing activities, declaring outbreaks and directing closure of classrooms or schools where necessary;

• The critical role of parents: screening their children every day before they go to school and keeping them home if they are ill;

• Appropriate steps to take when a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, including notifying the school community while respecting individual privacy; and

• Protocols to trigger various levels of public health responses or infection control measures. One case will trigger a public health response, two or more linked cases will trigger the declaration of an outbreak.