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Province implementing further safety measures in schools

By Courtney Bachar/The Oshawa Express/LJI Reporter

Elementary school students are looking at more safety measures when they return back to school after the April break on April 19.

Durham District School Board Director of Education Norah Marsh told board trustees at its standing committee meeting Tuesday, April 6, that the ministry of education was eluding to introducing new safety protocols.

“The strategy will be directing us to do screening at the elementary level similar to what we do at the secondary level,” notes Marsh, adding students will be required to complete the online self-assessment screening process and submit the results daily before the start of the school day.

“The challenge we have at elementary is that five-year-olds are not going to do a self-assessment in terms of screening, it would be the responsibility of the parents,” she continues.

The issue, Marsh says, will be communication with the parents around the self-assessment tool.

“Our elementary staff are already doing an incredible job in terms of when there are visible symptoms, communicating with the family immediately and confirming whether or not it’s allergies, or if in fact the child should be at home pending a COVID test,” she says.

While nothing was confirmed at the time of the meeting, Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced Wednesday, April 7, that further safety measures would be implemented at the elementary school level to help protect schools against COVID-19.

The new measures include on-site confirmation of self-screening, refresher training upon the return from the April break, outdoor instruction when possible, enhanced cleaning during the break, and the expansion of asymptomatic testing.

“Nothing is more important than keeping Ontario’s schools safe and open for students, staff and their families,” says Lecce, noting the additional health and safety measures will help protect against COVID-19 while working to get education workers vaccinated.

“Our students deserve a safe return to their classrooms on April 19 so that they can keep learning, and we are committed to delivering on that,” Lecce continues.

Lecce says asymptomatic testing is available for students and staff at pharmacies that offer testing, as well as in 180 assessment centres across the province for the week of April 12 to 18.

Furthermore, beginning next week, Lecce says vaccinations will begin for education workers who provide direct support to students with special education needs across the province, and all education workers in select hot spot areas. Vaccinations will begin in Toronto and Peel, and roll out to priority neighbourhoods in other hot spot regions, including York, Ottawa, Hamilton, Halton, and Durham, depending on vaccine supply.