PDSB provides information on how COVID-19 outbreaks will be handled in Mississauga schools
The Peel District School Board (PDSB), which operates schools in Brampton, Mississauga and Caledon, recently sent out a letter to families outlining how the board will respond to any potential COVID-19 outbreak in a school.
On a website detailing all of its COVID-19 procedures, the board says it has a plan in place in the event that a staff member or student at a school tests positive for COVID-19.
"We have developed a plan, aligned with Ontario’s COVID-19 guidance: school outbreak management document, following Ministry guidelines and in consultation with public health, to help contain and reduce the spread," the website reads.
"This is a plan we hope to never need, but will be ready in the event a positive case is identified, so Peel Public Health can respond quickly and effectively."
The board says that staff, students and visitors will be directed to get tested if they develop any symptoms of COVID-19 or if they do not pass the province's self-assessment.
Testing will not take place at school, so anyone with symptoms will need to visit an assessment centre. The board says staff, students, parents and visitors will be expected to report the results of their COVID-19 test to the school principal or vice-principal as soon as they are available so additional action can be taken if necessary.
Anyone who suspects they might have COVID-19 must isolate and not attend school while awaiting test results. The board says the principal might work with the teacher and parent to provide some continuity in learning if the student feels well enough to participate.
If a person falls ill with something other than COVID-19, he or she can return to school or work when they've been symptom-free for at least 24 hours.
Individuals who have had a COVID-19 test because of symptoms, but who test negative, should not return to school or work until at least 24 hours after their symptoms have resolved, the board says. Anyone who has travelled internationally must isolate for 14 days and cannot return to school or work until their government-mandated quarantine is complete—even if they feel fine or have recently tested negative.
The board says that if a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, Peel Public Health will contact the board’s COVID-19 Lead to provide further direction on returning to school.
The board says students and staff members who live with someone who has tested positive must stay home and isolate for 14 days, even if they do not feel ill themselves or get a negative test result.
Confirmed positive cases of COVID-19
In the event that a school staff member, student or visitor tests positive for COVID-19, areas of the building that the infected person accessed will undergo a deep cleaning. In some cases, the entire school, including surfaces, common areas and washrooms, will be vigorously cleaned.
Anyone who tests positive will be sent home immediately if they're at school at the time that the test result is revealed.
For a student who has tested positive for COVID-19
The board says school administrators will work with central board staff and Peel Public Health to conduct contact tracing using student attendance records, class and contact information, bus seating plans, classroom seating plans, and essential visitor sign-in records.
Peel Public Health will follow up with identified close contacts.
If the student attends a before- and/or after-school program or is a bus student, a list of the students (and staff members) outside of the student’s class/cohort, with contact information, must be prepared for Peel Public Health.
For a staff member who has tested positive for COVID-19
The board says the principal/supervisor will contact central board staff to provide the employee’s name, position, last day of work, and date of the positive test result. Central board staff will provide this information to Peel Public Health for contact tracing purposes and Peel Public Health will follow up with identified close contacts.
If the employee has been working directly with students, a list of those students and cohorts, with contact information, will be prepared for Peel Public Health.
The board says that if the employee is a homeroom teacher and has only had contact with their own class/cohort, then that cohort should be contained in their classroom until further action is directed by Peel Public Health.
Students may need to be sent home earlier in the day as opposed to going on a school bus or to an after-school program to minimize interaction with others.
Peel Public Health will complete a risk assessment and give direction to the school to support further action, which may or may not include:
- closing the classroom, a section of the school, or the full school
- a deep cleaning of a particular classroom or area.
- the need to self-isolate and/or seek testing at a COVID-19 Assessment Centre.
Individuals deemed to be close contacts by Peel Public Health will be contacted directly by the health agency.
Management of a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 in the school community
The board says that every individual who has tested positive for COVID-19 is contacted by Peel Public Health for further follow-up and that Peel Public Health will notify any relevant school of a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.
If Peel Public Health determines there was a transmission risk to others in the school, students and staff will be assessed to determine if they were at high risk of exposure (requiring isolation) or if they were at low risk of exposure and can self-monitor for symptoms and return to school.
All students and staff determined to be at high risk of exposure will be directed to isolate and seek voluntary testing within their isolation period.
Communicating with the school community when there’s a confirmed positive COVID-19 case in a school setting
The board says parents, students and staff will be informed when a COVID-19 positive case has been identified in their school. This information will not identify the student or staff member who has received a positive COVID-19 test. Notice of any closures of classes, cohorts or schools will be communicated directly with staff, students and families via School Messenger Communicate and/or email.
The Peel board will create a COVID-19 Advisory section on its board website and on all school websites that will be live by Sept. 8, 2020.
Provincial closure protocols for outbreaks
An outbreak in a school is defined as two or more lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in students and/or staff in a school with an epidemiological link, within a 14-day period, where at least one person could have reasonably acquired their infection in the school (including transportation and before- or after-school care).
An outbreak will not necessarily prompt the closure of an entire school, as Peel Public Health might recommend a partial closure if appropriate.
Reopening the school
The board says an outbreak does not necessarily need to be over in order for a school to reopen.
"Cohorts without evidence of transmission can be gradually brought back to school as additional information and test results become available," the website says.
"Consideration should be given to implementing additional preventive measures and active surveillance as part of re-opening."
Peel Public Health will declare that an outbreak is over when it's appropriate to do so.
The board says students will be encouraged to continue practising physical distancing during fire drills and lockdowns.
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