One of the many questions surrounding students’ return to school next month has been what will happen if a confirmed case of COVID-19 is found in a local school, and how will students and staff remain safe?

Staff with the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board are working alongside the Ministry of Education and the Northwestern Health Unit to develop appropriate protocols, if the worst-case scenario were to happen.

“We know that this is a very stressful time for everyone,” said the KPDSB’s Director of Education, Sherri-Lynne Pharand, during a virtual question and answer session held last week.

“It’s been stressful since March 13, when our world changed. That’s why our guiding principles as we return to school are founded on health, safety and well-being for all of our staff, students and communities. Health, safety and well-being is a top priority.”

The KPDSB says every school will have a designated room where the student can be separated from other staff and students until they’re able to go home, they will be supervised at a two metre distance and staff will wear personal protective equipment.

Schools will immediately notify the parents and guardians if their child becomes ill, and the need for emergency contact is vital. The class of the ill child or staff member may be closed until cleaning takes place.

In that situation, the class would be relocated to another area in the building. Students or staff members who test positive will not be able to return to school until they clear the Northwestern Health Unit’s guidelines and isolation.

“If there is a positive case, further steps will be ordered by the local health authorities and the public officer of health, that may include testing and similar measures. They may also order other actions, such as closure of the class, closure of the school, further testing, contact tracing and much more,” added Pharand.

Schools will also have a protocol where if they’re notified that a staff member or student has become ill overnight, the school needs to be notified so they can clean the areas where the person was, before becoming ill.

If another student in your student’s classroom becomes ill, the health unit may notify other parents, based on if there is significant concern. If there is contact tracing required, you will be contacted directly by health unit staff.

If another student in your child’s cohort are positive for COVID-19 and your student is required to self-isolate by the health unit, students will be supported through access to remote-learning tools.

“One of the best things that parents can do this year to help ensure the health, safety and well-being of everyone, if your child is ill and is showing any symptoms, please keep them home and away from school,” Pharand stressed.

As of June 18, the Northwestern Health Unit has reported 44 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the area, but all of the cases are now considered resolved.

Staff remind the public to assume that COVID-19 is spreading within your community, and to always follow social distancing and hand hygiene guidelines. Masks are now mandatory in all enclosed public spaces in northwestern Ontario.

Masks will be required for all Grade 4 to Grade 12 students, and they are encouraged for Kindergarten to Grade 3 students.

For more information:
Chief medical officer supports back to school plan
KPDSB – Return to School - Frequently Asked Questions