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Be ready for sudden class or faculty closures, board tells dad and mom

Parents ought to have contingency plans for kids and monitor their electronic mail, says a letter from the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board.

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Ottawa‘s largest school board has warned parents that staff absences may cause class or school closures on short notice after schools reopen Monday.

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The board will try to let parents know at least the night before of any closures, said a letter sent to parents Friday by the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board.

“We will make every effort to keep classes and schools open, but, if we cannot operate safely, a class or school may have to pivot to remote learning until we can arrange for appropriate coverage.”

Parents should have contingency plans for children and monitor their email, the letter said.

Schools across the province are bracing for what could be high levels of absences among students and staff as in-person classes resume when rates of COVID-19 in the community are high.

The chair of the Ottawa-Carleton board has also written to Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce to express concerns about the province’s faculty reopening plans.

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First amongst these considerations, Lynn Scott wrote, is the necessity to proceed monitoring and reporting confirmed and suspected COVID-19 circumstances at faculties.

The authorities has suspended reporting of COVID-19 circumstances at faculties and households will now not be notified of circumstances amongst classmates or cohorts comparable to fellow bus-riders.

It’s a part of broader adjustments to Ontario’s testing and contact-tracing system after it was overwhelmed with the surge of Omicron variant circumstances.

The laboratory-based PCR testing that shaped the idea of the college reporting and monitoring system for COVID-19 has been restricted to high-risk individuals and settings like hospitals and long-term care properties. School workers and college students are as an alternative being provided speedy antigen assessments that may be accomplished at residence.

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The provincial ministry of training says it now plans to gauge the prevalence of COVID-19 in faculties by monitoring what number of college students and workers are absent.

If absences rise greater than 30 per cent above regular ranges, the principal should inform native public well being authorities. The province will publish attendance statistics on-line beginning Jan. 24, in accordance with a ministry memo to high school boards.

Scott’s letter mentioned absences have been an “imprecise and inadequate proxy for understanding the prevalence of COVID-19 in schools.”

Children are absent from faculty for a lot of causes, mentioned the Jan. 14 letter, which was written on the request of all trustees.

Board chair Lynn Scott to Education Minister Stephen Lecce says absences are an “imprecise and inadequate proxy for understanding the prevalence of COVID-19 in schools.”
Board chair Lynn Scott to Education Minister Stephen Lecce says absences are an “imprecise and inadequate proxy for understanding the prevalence of COVID-19 in schools.” Photo by Jacquie Miller /Postmedia

Families shouldn’t need to depend on “uninformative absence reports or on community rumour” to find out whether or not their little one was uncovered to COVID-19 in school, or whether or not the general threat of the virus in school exceeds their household threat tolerance, the letter mentioned.

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Students and workers will need to have entry to PCR testing if they’ve signs or have high-risk publicity in school so COVID-19 circumstances will be tracked and reported, the letter mentioned.

Rapid antigen assessments are additionally wanted to help a “test to return” technique for college kids and workers who’ve been ailing with COVID-19 or uncovered to the virus, the letter mentioned.

The province has mentioned two speedy antigen assessments will likely be distributed to each pupil and workers member beginning subsequent week. More assessments are anticipated to be accessible later as provides arrive from the federal authorities.

Scott’s letter additionally requested the province make medical and non-fit-tested N95 masks accessible to college students.

Staff have been been supplied with medical masks since final yr and the province plans to make N95 masks accessible to them once more subsequent week.

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For college students, the province has mentioned three-layer fabric masks will likely be distributed to any pupil wanting them.

Scott’s letter additionally requested ample long-term funding to improve faculty air flow methods.

The province has mentioned enhancements have been made to air flow methods in any respect faculties, comparable to upgrading to higher-grade filters and recalibrating methods to extend recent air circulate.

Portable HEPA air filters have additionally been supplied for faculties that lack mechanical air flow methods and all kindergarten courses. Critics have known as for HEPA filters for each classroom.

Ontario’s two million elementary and secondary college students have been briefly shifted to on-line studying at residence after the Christmas break.

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The Ministry of Education has directed faculty board directors to do the whole lot they’ll to maintain faculties open.

To assist relieve workers shortages and absences, the federal government will permit first-year school of training college students to fill in. Second-year college students have already been in school rooms on non permanent educating certificates since final yr. In addition, the variety of days retired academics are allowed to work in school rooms throughout this faculty yr has been boosted to 95 from 50.

Schools can introduce rotating distant studying days or permit college students from totally different courses to be mixed if essential to hold faculties open, the ministry has mentioned.

However, Ottawa-Carleton board workers instructed trustees at a gathering this week that directors would in all probability shut courses earlier than mixing college students from totally different courses collectively as a result of that may violate cohorting.

Cohorting — maintaining college students with their similar class as a lot as attainable — has been a key measure to cut back the unfold of the virus in school.

jmiller@postmedia.com

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