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School Administrators and Educators

The information on this page is meant to provide school administrators and educators in Simcoe Muskoka with information and resources to help keep your school community safe and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This information is based on the direction of both the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education, and additional recommendations from our health unit. It will be continually updated to reflect changes in provincial direction and our local context. We encourage you to visit this page often to keep yourself informed.

We all have a role to play in stopping the spread of COVID-19 in schools.

As school administrators and educators, you play a critical role in preventing the spread of COVID-19. To promote a safe and healthy school community:

  • Familiarize yourself with the COVID-19 guidance documents listed above and the related policies , to understand how the health unit works with school boards and schools to prevent COVID-19 in schools and to respond in the event of a case or outbreak.
  • Understand the recommendations for families and students who attend school in Simcoe Muskoka. 
  • Share this information with others within your school community.
  • Encourage everyone in your school community to get vaccinated, if eligible.

 

All school staff can do their part by:

  • Getting vaccinated. 
  • Adhering to public health recommendations at home and at school. 
  • Completing the daily COVID-19 School and Child Care Screening and follow school or school board processes to confirm completion. 
  • Staying home if experiencing even one symptom of COVID-19, or if you have answered yes to any of the daily screening questions. 
  • Wearing a medical mask and/or additional personal protective equipment (PPE), as required by your school. All school staff are required to wear masks and eye protection (for example goggles or a face shield) both inside and outside when unable to maintain 2 metres (6 feet) of distance from unmasked individuals.
  • Practising physical distancing
  • Following any additional guidance provided by your healthcare provider and the health unit.

Visit this page often to keep yourself informed, as information and guidelines can change.

  • All students/staff/visitors must complete the daily COVID-19 school and child care screening tool before coming to school each day.
  • Schools/school boards will have a validation process to confirm secondary students, staff and visitors have completed the daily self-screening.

If a student does not pass daily screening: 

  • They must stay home and parents/guardians must follow the advice listed on the screening tool.  
  • Parents/guardians are responsible to inform the school and/or child care of absence due to illness. 

If a staff or essential visitor does not pass daily screening: 

  • They must stay home and follow the advice listed on the screening tool. 
  • They should also advise the school of their absence due to illness, as per school board policy. 

While students, staff or visitors (and their respective households) are waiting for COVID-19 test results, they must remain in self-isolation and cannot attend school in-person. 

If the student/staff member has received an alternate diagnosis from their doctor or primary health care provider which determined that their symptoms are not due to COVID-19, then they may return to school once:

  • it's been at least 24 hours since symptoms started improving and the person does not have a fever.
  • if the symptoms include nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, symptoms must have resolved for at least 48 hours before they are able to return to school. 

Medical documentation is not required to return to school.

Guidance: When COVID-19 symptoms develop at school or child care (revised September 2, 2021)

Note: Siblings who are household members of an ill child are recommended but not required to leave at the same time as the ill child. They can complete their day then will need to be excluded until certain criteria is met.

Asymptomatic household members of symptomatic individuals are not required to isolate if they are fully immunized, or if they were previously positive within the past 90 days and have since been cleared.

Symptomatic staff should self-isolate (leave the school, go home), and follow the advice listed in the screening tool. Children who are household members of an ill staff member are recommended but not required to leave at the same time as the ill staff member unless they are also symptomatic. They can complete their day and then will need to be excluded until certain criteria is met.

If the student or staff member who became ill is tested and is confirmed to have COVID-19, the school must contact their School Board COVID-Lead who will notify SMDHU.

When completing the daily student or staff/visitor daily screening tool, individuals who have been identified as a close contact of someone confirmed to have COVID-19 must isolate (stay home) and follow the instructions provided. This includes: 

  • contacting the school to let them know 
  • isolating at home, except to get tested or for a medical emergency 
  • visiting an assessment centre to get a COVID-19 test, or seek medical advice if required.

What is a ‘close contact’?

A close contact is anyone who has been within 2 metres (6 feet) of someone who is contagious with COVID-19 and: 

  • being in the same classroom, bus or cohort,
  • being closer than 2 metres (6 feet), for 15 minutes in total (e.g. at one time, or through smaller interactions adding up to 15 minutes), when either your child or the other person was not wearing a mask 
  • you live in the same household as a case.

The health unit determines close contact based on a thorough risk assessment. For each situation, the health unit also needs to assess the type of contact that occurred, including what personal protective equipment (PPE) was worn. For this reason, the definition of close contact may not be the same in every situation. 

Note: wearing adequate personal protective equipment (at a minimum a medical mask and eye protection) means exposures are generally low-risk.

Outside of school:

Those who are identified as close contacts of someone who is confirmed to have COVID-19 outside of school may be notified by the COVID Alert App or public health or the close contact who tested positive for COVID-19.

The health unit does not recommend that schools notify the school community when a staff or student reports that they have been in close contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19 outside of school.

At school:

When a person who has attended school in the last 14 days is confirmed to have COVID-19, the health unit conducts an investigation to determine who may have been exposed.

School principals will be notified and may be asked to provide information to assist in the health unit’s investigation. 

Principals will also receive information from the health unit to share with anyone identified as a close contact, including instructions for self-isolation and testing. 

Staff and students who are not identified as close contacts may continue to come to school if they pass the daily screening.

Asymptomatic individuals are not required to isolate if they are fully immunized, or if they were previously positive within the past 90 days and have since been cleared.

Schools may be notified that a staff, student or essential visitor has tested positive for COVID-19 in two ways:

  • Individuals may receive their positive test result online and then notify the school, or
  • Public health may receive confirmation that a person who attended school has tested positive for COVID-19, and then notifies the school board and school.

Please be assured that the health unit works closely with local school boards and schools when someone who attends school has been confirmed to have COVID-19, and to protect the health of those that may be affected.

When the school is notified that someone has COVID-19:

School principals are legally required to report suspect or confirmed Diseases of Public Health Significance (including COVID-19) to their local public health unit.

If a staff member (including teachers, bus drivers, before and after care provider, etc.) or a student reports that they have been diagnosed with or tested positive for COVID-19, the school principal and/or school board COVID-Lead must notify the SMDHU immediately (can be through School Board COVID-19 Lead).

Schools are not required to report symptomatic individuals (for example, those that did not pass the daily self-screening) or those that have been in close contact with a person who tested positive or who are waiting for test results.

When the health unit is notified that a person in the school has COVID-19:

  • we first must verify the test result with the laboratory. 
  • once the test result is confirmed, an investigator is assigned to contact the person who has tested positive and gather more information from them. 

A key part of this investigation is to confirm if the individual attended school / child care during the period of communicability or “POC” (the time that the illness was most contagious).

During the investigation, the person who has COVID-19 will be asked several questions, such as

  • where they work or go to school 
  • when they were last at school 
  • who they have been close contact with 
  • whether they are able to physically distance from others 
  • what personal protective equipment (PPE) they wear 
  • where else they have been (e.g. outside of school) during the period that they could have passed the virus to others

School principals may be asked to provide additional information to the health unit to assist with the investigation, such as:

  • attendance records for the specific dates that SMDHU requests 
  • class lists and seating charts for every class 
  • up-to-date contact information for the parent/guardian of each student
  • name and contact info for any staff/outside visitors that interacted with the class on the dates provided (e.g. Rotary teachers, service providers) 
  • before-and-after program child care lists 
  • bus seating charts (regular and after-school program bussing) 
  • special assignments and programs 

It is during this assessment that the health unit determines the level of risk to others in the school, and what recommendations need to be provided to those who may have been in close contact with that person with COVID-19.

If the health unit identifies that there may be a risk to members of the school community, we work together with the school principal and the school board to ensure that students, families, and school employees/visitors are properly notified.

We do not recommend proactively closing a location such as a classroom or school before an initial investigation and risk assessment has been completed. 

Guidance: When Students, Staff or Visitors tests positive for COVID-19 (revised September 2, 2021)

The health unit will: 

  • Notify the school board and school principal 
  • Conduct a thorough investigation and risk assessment 
  • Request information from the school board and/or school principal to inform the investigation, as needed 
  • Identify any close contacts in the school who must be excluded from school, and provide a letter for distribution to these individuals with instructions for self-isolation and testing (even if they have no symptoms) 
  • Support the school board, school and child care operator, as needed, with general communications to school staff and families.

Schools will also be asked to: 

  • Provide the health unit with information about who else the person with COVID-19 was in contact with while at school, including before and after school care and on the school bus. 
  • Enhance cleaning and disinfection in all areas of the school where the individual who tested positive for COVID-19 may have been. 
  • Work with the health unit to develop a plan to protect all students and staff, and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

All efforts will be made protect the privacy of individuals who have been diagnosed. Due to privacy laws, the health unit will not release personal or identifying information about any individual who is ill unless deemed necessary.

Guidance: When COVID-19 Outbreak is Declared (revised September 2, 2021)

The health unit is responsible for determining if an outbreak exists, declaring an outbreak and providing direction on outbreak control measures to be implemented.

When an outbreak is declared at a school, the health unit will: 

  • Notify the school board and school principal
  • Conduct a thorough investigation and risk assessment 
  • Request information from the school board and/or school principal to inform the investigation, as needed.
  • Identify any close contacts in the school who must be excluded from school, and provide a letter for distribution to these individuals with instructions for self-isolation and testing (even if they have no symptoms)
  • Post the outbreak on the SMDHU website
  • Support the school board, school and child care operator, as needed, with general communications to school staff and families. 
  • Notify the school board, school, and before and after care when the outbreak is declared over.

Schools and school boards work with the health unit to create and distribute communications to staff, students and/or families. The health unit will advise the school board and school of additional outbreak measures that are needed and will provide recommendations to support implementation.

All efforts will be made to protect the privacy of individuals who have been diagnosed. Due to privacy laws, the health unit will not release personal or identifying information about any individual who is ill unless deemed necessary.

 

The health unit conducts a thorough investigation of every confirmed COVID-19 case. This includes:

  • Working with the school to determine who from the school community (e.g. students, staff, before and after care, bus, volunteers, etc.) may have been in close contact with the person who has COVID-19.
  • Communicating with all individuals who have been identified as a close contact.

All efforts will be made protect the privacy of individuals who have been diagnosed. The health unit, school and school board will share only the information that is deemed necessary.

Those who are not considered a close contact of the individual who tested positive for COVID-19 will not receive communication from the SMDHU. We do not recommend that these individuals seek testing unless they are showing symptoms of COVID-19. When completing self-screening before the school day, those that have not been contacted by public health would not be considered a close contact of someone who has been confirmed to have COVID-19, and therefore may continue to come to school.

The SMDHU does not recommend that schools share information with staff and families about:

  • Symptomatic individuals including those that did not pass the daily self-screening or who become sick while at school.
  • A student or staff member who self-reports that they have been in close contact with someone confirmed to have COVID-19. 
  • A student or staff member who has been tested for COVID-19 and whose test results are pending. 
  • A student or staff member who self-reports that they have tested positive or been diagnosed with COVID-19.
We will be continuously updating information and resources on this webpage. We are also available for consultation and support as new situations emerge, and will provide clarification or additional information as needed in order to support the safest possible learning environment in Simcoe Muskoka.
  • It is mandatory for staff and visitors to wear medical grade masks indoors, including in hallways and during classes. Staff are also required to wear masks outdoors when unable to maintain two metres of distance from others. Staff must maintain at least two metres distance when consuming food/drinks. Staff are required to wear eye protection both indoors and outdoors when unable to maintain two metres of distance with an unmasked individual. SMDHU recommends that all teachers and school staff who are regularly in close contact with students also wear eye protection (such as a face shield or goggles) when they are in the classroom, and when they cannot maintain 2 metres (6 feet) physical distance from others even when masks are worn.
  • Students in grades 1 to 12 must wear non-medical or cloth masks indoors in school, including in hallways and during classes, and on school vehicles. Masks are not required outdoors but physical distancing of 2 metres should be encouraged between cohorts as much as possible. Masking requirements apply to before and after school programs, as well as on school vehicles.  
  • The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) is recommending that school boards and private schools mandate students in kindergarten (JK and SK) to wear masks while attending school in-person during the 2021-2022 school year. Please refer to your school board policy.
  • Masks may temporarily be removed indoors for the following activities, with a minimum distance of 2 metres maintained between cohorts and as much distancing as possible within a cohort to engage in low-contact physical activity or consume food or drink.

Educators should assist students to build mask wearing skills in similar ways they have encouraged hand hygiene skills: with practice, patience and positive messages. Some simple ideas include:

  • Set a daily mask wearing challenge that increases over time (e.g.: during carpet time then extended to first break then extended to second break, etc.).
  • Include mask related activities in your lesson plan for math (graphing, telling time, journaling, oral communication activities). 
  • Make up words to a familiar tune and actions to lead students through mask application. 
  • If a student takes their mask off negotiate how long they need for a break and then remind them to put their mask back on.
  • Remind students to change their masks after nutrition breaks or recess and ensure hand hygiene is part of the process.

Masks should be replaced if they become soiled or wet.

Ask parents and guardians to send more than one mask to school so students can change them through-out the day. We suggest at least 3 masks per day to enable changes at each break or more often.

Soiled masks should be stored in a clean, labelled, paper bag or envelope (something that does not absorb moisture). Ensure students are taking soiled masks home each night to be laundered.

Mask wearing outdoors

  • Students are not required to wear masks outdoors but physical distancing of 2 metres should be encouraged between cohorts as much as possible. 
  • Staff are required to wear medical masks outdoors when a distance of 2 metres from others is not maintained. 
     

Use of outdoor equipment at school

  • Schools should follow the advice about the use of outdoor equipment in their school board policies. 
  • Ensure handwashing or use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer before and after use of any shared equipment. 
  • Encourage physical distancing for those that are using the equipment.
  • Ensure routine cleaning of outdoor surfaces made of plastic or metal; cleaning of wood/natural items is not recommended.

Storage of indoor shoes and outdoor clothing 

  • Outdoor clothing can be stored in cubbies, lockers and hooks in the hallway - touching of personal belongings amongst children (coats, boots) does not have a high risk for transmission. 
  • Physical distance is the most important factor when accessing clothing and personal belongings. 
  • Schools should stagger outdoor time and/or dressing time to help relieve congestion and encourage physical distancing. 
  • Students should always be encouraged to wash their hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer after coming in from outdoors, and after removing their outdoor clothing.

SMDHU Fact Sheets 

  • Someone at a School or Child Care Centre Tested Positive for COVID-19 (revised September 2, 2021) English / French
  • UPDATED: My Child has Been Identified as a Close Contact of Someone Confirmed to Have COVID-19 (revised September 23, 2021) EnglishFrench
     

Cleaning and disinfecting

 

 Hand Hygiene

 

Masks 


Testing and self-isolation


 Website Links:

 

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Page last updated: September 28, 2021

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