February 22, 2021
The Ministry of Education (MOE) has provided new requirements for students and staff in schools in response to the emergence of new COVID-19 variants and in alignment with the return to in-person learning. We all need to work together to stay vigilant in our efforts to continue the downward trend of case counts across Huron Perth and the province, in order to keep our schools safe and open.
Targeted Asymptomatic Testing in Schools
The MOE has asked to utilize school space (e.g. gymnasiums) in order to offer testing to asymptomatic students and staff in two of our schools each week beginning as soon as possible. Details include:
- We will work in partnership with Huron Perth Public Health to prioritize schools in areas of high transmission, high case numbers, and schools where access to current testing programs may be challenging.
- Testing will be conducted by MOE approved third party vendors and will be hosted in local schools, outside of regular school hours.
- Testing will be for asymptomatic students and staff only (i.e. people who are not experiencing any symptoms), will be voluntary and consent will be required for students under the age of 18.
- Household members of students and staff, and anyone with symptoms, should seek testing at a community COVID-19 assessment centre.
Parents/guardians of schools that are selected to host testing will receive full details ahead of time so please stay tuned.
Isolation Requirement for Household Contacts of Symptomatic Individuals
As of February 12, the Ministry of Health has issued guidance to public health units regarding COVID-19 variants of concern, requiring all household contacts of symptomatic individuals to quarantine. This letter from Huron Perth Public Health outlines the full details but it is complex and HPPH will provide guidance in these situations.
Changes to Daily Screening
As of February 19, the daily Ontario online screening tool for students and staff now directs an individual with any new or worsening symptom of COVID-19, as indicated in the school screening tool, even those with only one symptom, to stay home until:
- They receive a negative COVID-19 test result.
- They receive an alternative diagnosis by a health care professional, or
- It has been 10 days since their symptom onset and they are feeling better.
Please continue to screen daily BEFORE attending school. Use the Ontario online screening tool because it provides specific advice on what to do if a student is experiencing one or more symptoms. This is very important to keep our schools safe and open for in-person learning.
Implications for In-person Learning
This new guidance will have implications for student and staff absenteeism. Every effort will be made to continue in-person learning but situations may arise where classrooms (or entire schools) may need to pivot to remote learning for a designated period of time. This will be the last course of action and we are working hard to have plans in place to avoid this, but the need may arise. Every attempt will be made to make the decision to close a classroom(s) or school in a timely manner in order to give staff and families time to make arrangements.
We all must continue to do our part to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and we thank you for your partnership.
Dr. Lisa Walsh
Director of Education