News Release: Safe Return to School – A Public Health Toolkit for Windsor and Essex County Released
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For Immediate Release
Wednesday, August 12, 2020 | 3:00 p.m. | Windsor and Essex County
The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) is releasing the Safe Return to School – A Public Health Toolkit for Windsor and Essex County on the website. The 41-page resource provides eight steps for ensuring safe school operations in September during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Windsor and Essex County region has faced a number of challenges in recent months related to COVID-19. As the last region in the province to move into Stage 3 of Ontario’s reopening plan, it is very important that we protect the careful progress we have made to date.
“Since we are the last region to move forward, we will have fewer weeks’ worth of information to build on, less time to ensure case counts remain low, and greater urgency to get the plan right. It is therefore critical that there be a safe plan in place to enable our children and all of those who support them in our schools to return to classrooms. As a member of this community and a parent of two kids returning to the classroom, safe reopening of our schools is personally important for me as well,” says Dr. Wajid Ahmed, Medical Officer of Health.
The following key recommendations have been developed within the eight steps to make the return to school safe and healthy for everyone:
- That the public health measures we have demonstrated are effective be maintained in our schools including:
- Maintaining physical distancing wherever possible, at least 2 meters for classroom activities.
- Providing instruction and frequent opportunities for staff, teachers, and children to clean their hands.
- Encouraging the use of masks or face coverings in all indoor spaces (with appropriate exceptions), even where it might not be mandatory, and providing education to staff and students about how to wear and maintain masks.
- That we consider safer options for transportation to and from school including:
- Appropriate physical distancing measures on school busses, limiting students to one student or household per seat or those that are part of the child’s social circle.
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for bus drivers and monitors.
- Encouraging masks or face coverings for all students using the bus.
- Safely distanced walking routes that consider traffic, crossings, and staggered arrival times for students.
- Drop off zones for students to safely exit vehicles and move into schools without congregating.
- That cleaning in schools continue to be top of mind and in line with best-practice recommendations from WECHU including:
- Regular cleaning of high touch surfaces.
- Enabling students to clean their physical environment and teaching them about doing so.
- Cleaning of classrooms, equipment, and spaces between uses.
- That the complete picture of health and wellbeing for students and school staff be considered, with the lens of COVID-19 and that this be inclusive of physical, mental, and emotional wellness.
- Providing clarity with a single, adaptable plan for all school boards.
“Everyone in our community has an important role to play in making the return to school safe. The safest thing for our children is for our community to have a low burden of disease. That means all of us doing our part by continuing to follow public health measures including staying home when sick,” says Theresa Marentette, CEO and Chief Nursing Officer.
The WECHU will continue to work with our school board partners, parents, and the community as we prepare for our children’s safe return to school. Public health professionals, including public health nurses, will continue to support schools throughout the year as they implement plans, adjust, and adapt to ensure a successful, healthy, and safe school year.