Hastings and Prince Edward Counties/Aug. 31, 2020
The Acting Medical Officer of Health from Hastings Prince Edward Public Health (HPEPH) has released a second statement regarding the start of school for students and educators in the region.
As most students in our region plan to return to school next week, I want to reassure you once again that the health and safety of students and staff is our top priority. There are many benefits of a structured learning environment for students, and we are working to implement a school environment that will minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission in schools. Over the past few weeks, we have continued to work diligently with our school board partners as they have finalized detailed protocols to protect the health of students while enabling a fulsome learning experience.
We understand that this will be a very different return to school. We know there is a lot of uncertainty in the community about what will happen as students return to the classroom. However, parents, students, school staff, and the community should be assured that protocols are in place to prevent, identify and respond to any COVID-19 cases. These include:
- Provincial COVID-19 Operational Guidance for schools, as well as COVID-19 Outbreak Management Procedures.
- Comprehensive return to school plans at both ALCDSB and HPEDSB, which include infection prevention and control measures such as:
- Additional precautions from our transportation partners including recommended face coverings for all students (mandatory for grades 4-12).
- Screening tools for parents, students, and staff, on our Return to School web page.
We can also reassure you that HPEPH will continue working with our school partners on an ongoing basis throughout the school year and beyond, to continue to respond to COVID-19, as well as work to promote the overall health and wellbeing of students. This will involve:
- Local public health inspectors connecting with school administrators and cleaning staff in our region to support infection prevention
- Ongoing meetings with school board administrators to quickly identify and respond to any concerns.
- Launch of HPEPH’s Healthy Schools Team, which includes recently funded Public Health Nurses dedicated to school health, Health Promoters, and consulting Public Health Inspectors and Registered Dietitian.
- The Healthy Schools Team will not only support infection prevention and response, but will work with families of schools on an ongoing basis to provide support and resources on the of school health topics included in the Ontario Public Health Standards, and work to promote overall health of school age children in the region.
- Alternative delivery of regular school health programs, such as oral health screening, immunization, and sexual health services.
- Provision of guidance and resources to parents and caregivers to support this unprecedented time.
In addition, there are steps parents can take to help prepare their children for school this year. Parents are encouraged to visit our Back to School webpage, which provides a list of activities to consider before the return to school, including practicing proper hand washing, practicing taking a mask on and off, and ensuring your child is up to date with childhood vaccines.
While some positive cases have been identified in our community in the past few weeks, please be reassured that overall, cases remain low in our community. We are committed to continuing to work together with the Ministry of Health and our school board partners to monitor the local and provincial situation, and will continue to respond as appropriate to keep our community safe. Everyone, not just those with school aged children, has an important role to play in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Your continued efforts will contribute to the successful reopening of schools.
While this is undoubtedly an unusual school year, I am confident in our school board partners, and the staff of HPEPH, to support safe and meaningful learning and learning environments for students across Hastings and Prince Edward Counties. The decision about whether or not to send your children to the classroom in person is a personal one for families to make, unique to their own circumstances. HPEPH will continue to provide the best information to you to support the decisions you make for your children and your families for right now and I am also confident that parents will make choices that consider the health and safety of their own children, other students and the community.
Dr. Alexa Caturay, Acting Medical Officer of Health
Hastings Prince Edward Public Health
About Hastings Prince Edward Public Health
Hastings Prince Edward Public Health (HPEPH) is a public health agency that serves the counties of Hastings and Prince Edward from four local offices. We monitor the health of our local population, deliver programs and services within our communities, and help develop healthy public policies. We provide information and support in many areas to help improve the health and well-being of our residents. Together with our communities, we help people become as healthy as they can be. For more information, please visit hpePublicHealth.ca. You can also find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.