Leadership with Northern Ontario public health units and school boards are joining together to commit to delivering a safe school year for local students, as the region continues to fight against COVID-19.

In a joint press release from a number of regional health units and school boards, Directors of Education and Medical Officers of Health across Northern Ontario shared their united commitment and determination to create COVID-19 safe schools for all students.

“These last 25 weeks have been marked with uncertainty, personal and economic sacrifice... and ultimately, with success in flattening the curve of the first wave of COVID-19 in our area.

With schools reopening, many are experiencing mixed emotions. Families, educators and support staff, and students young and old, may all feel a combination of relief, fear, pride, worry, and excitement.

We all share in this experience, and all our varied emotions are valid. We also all share a common aim—our unwavering commitment to protect our students and our entire school community from COVID-19.

Our respective teams are working tirelessly—public health and education together—to put into action the provincial direction on COVID-19 prevention and management in schools.”

Staff with Northern Ontario public health units are also sharing ten basic COVID-19 safety tips, for both students and families. They include:

- The best way to protect schools and support a successful school reopening is to keep COVID-19 out of our communities. Now, more than ever, we need to recommit to COVID-19 prevention. Follow the guidance set out by your local health unit.

- Make COVID-19 symptom screening part of your daily routine. Just like brushing your teeth every morning, checking for COVID-19 symptoms and using a COVID-19 self-assessment tool are essential parts of your daily habits.

- Got symptoms? Stay home! Now is not the time to “tough it out” when you are under the weather. No one will thank you for showing up to school sick. When in doubt, wait it out—and let your school know!

- Have a “plan B”. Things can change quickly with COVID-19. You know your “plan A”. Have a back-up plan so you can deal with unexpected changes caused by COVID-19 in your school, like needing to stay home and being prepared to shift from in school learning to distance learning, or a combination of both.

- Talk to each other. Discuss different age-appropriate scenarios and role play them to support kids in how to handle them safely. Examples include situations in the school or classroom related to masks, distancing, touchless greetings, or handwashing, and getting to and from school.

- Stay informed. School boards and public health units post valuable information on their websites and on social media. It’s also available by phone. School boards are required to post COVID-19 case information and share any real-time impacts on their schools, such as class dismissals or school closures

- Be prepared. This year back-to-school supplies include non-medical masks. Follow your school’s policies on what to bring and what they will supply.

- Get involved. As we work through this together, we will face unknowns and unexpected situations. Be solution oriented and know that we all have the same aim. Share your observations and your suggestions with your school.

- Take care of yourself. You may feel alone as a student or someone who cares for a student. Unsettling feelings at school re-entry are very normal—and even more so right now with a global pandemic in our midst. You are never as alone as you feel. Whether you need clinical information or mental health supports—reach out for help when you need it.

- Be COVID kind. Practise kindness, patience, and gratitude—we are all in this together.

Schools closed their doors on March 13, prior to the March Break. It’s been just under six months since students have been in their classrooms.

For more information:
We feel confident, KPDSB
NWHU commends school boards for their work