Chief Public Health Office Back-to-School Guidance – January 2022

Public and private schools have delayed the return to in-class instruction in response to the rise in cases of COVID-19 in PEI. This delay provides time for the Chief Public Health Office to further understand the impact of the Omicron variant on populations in PEI, and allows the school system to adjust its procedures to ensure a safer environment for students and staff when in-class instruction resumes.

In-class instruction is scheduled to resume in January. The resumption of in-class instruction will be dependent on local epidemiology and the ongoing impact of the Omicron variant in PEI. Cases of COVID-19 are anticipated in the school system, however, public health measures to minimize risk and increase safety in the school setting will be in place when classes resume.

Enhanced Public Health Measures in Schools

The guidance that follows expands on the August 2021 Back-to-School Guidance. When in-class instruction resumes in January 2022, the following enhanced public health measures will be in effect. Public health directives to individuals supersede all guidelines contained herein.

Elevated Risk – Enhanced Public Health Measures
Vaccination 

Recommend everyone eligible get vaccinated with a complete series of Health Canada-approved COVID-19 vaccines.

Vaccination is the best protection against COVID-19 and its variants. Evidence on vaccine effectiveness against the Omicron variant continues to be gathered. Although breakthrough infections among vaccinated individuals occur, current vaccines approved for use in Canada appear to provide good protection against serious outcomes and hospitalization from this variant.

Screening and Management of Symptoms of COVID-19

All students and staff must complete daily home screening for symptoms of COVID-19 using the COVID-19 symptom screening tool. Parents and caregivers are responsible for assessing their children daily before sending them to school.

If you are feeling unwell or experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, however mild, stay home.  Access testing at a drop-in testing clinic at the earliest opportunity and self-isolate until the results are back.

Testing guidance may evolve over time, refer to the most up to date information on the testing webpage.

Schools should follow their standard procedures for students, staff and essential visitors who become sick during the school day.

Hand Hygiene

Frequent hand hygiene and proper respiratory etiquette is encouraged.

Handwashing supplies and alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol should be made available throughout the school.

Signage on personal hygiene etiquette such as handwashing, respiratory etiquette (sneezing and coughing), should be clearly posted throughout the school.

Cleaning and Disinfection Maintain enhanced cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces, particularly between cohorts or where no cohorting is possible.
Ventilation

Maintain ventilation systems to appropriate standards, and recommend improvements to ventilation systems where they do not meet standards.

Open windows when possible, and when weather permits.

Recommend the use of portable HEPA filters in schools where mechanical ventilation systems do not already exist.

Masking  

All K-12 students, staff, and visitors are required to wear masks in all indoor areas of school facilities, including in classrooms, while transitioning between classrooms and other school areas, staff areas, and while on school buses. Masks are not required outdoors.

Exemptions to mask requirements include:

  • A person who cannot wear a mask for health or behavioural reasons
  • A person unable to put on or take off a mask without the assistance of another person
  • If the mask is removed temporarily in order to identify the person wearing it
  • If the mask is removed temporarily to engage in an educational activity that would otherwise be inhibited by the mask (i.e. engaging in physical activity, playing a wind instrument, etc.)
  • Instructional staff may remove their mask if it inhibits instruction, while maintaining physical distancing
  • While actively eating or drinking
  • While providing a service to a person where visual cues, facial expression, lip reading, etc. are required

All students and staff should have access to good quality 3-layer masks. Schools will provide a 3-layer mask or equivalent as recommended by the Public Health Agency of Canada for community use.

See the Wearing Masks in the Community and Workplace guidance for further information on mask use.

Cohorting  

Cohorting is a measure intended to limit the impact of outbreaks within schools by keeping potential outbreaks contained to a smaller group of students and staff. Where possible, schools should implement cohorting of students and staff.

Students and staff are encouraged to select a small, consistent group of friends and colleagues to associate with in the school setting and on busses. Cohorting is to be maintained by staff in lunch rooms and during breaks.

Cohorts of 50 or fewer required, wherever possible, in Grades K-9 for students and staff during classroom learning, recess, and breaks.

Due to class scheduling, cohorting is not required in Grades 10-12 unless the school population is small enough that it can be effectively implemented.

Visitors should be limited to essential activities for supporting learning.

Physical Distancing

Students and staff are encouraged to select a small, consistent group of friends and colleagues to associate with in the school setting and on busses.

Physical distancing recommended in Grades K-12, including, but not limited to, classroom desk configuration, locker/cubby access, cafeterias, and flow control in hallways and stairwells.

Physical distancing required in all staff areas.

Schools must create space between people wherever possible:

  • Use all available space to spread out, for example:
    • Use different common space and classroom configurations
    • Avoid face-to-face seating arrangements
  • Prevent crowding during class transition times, for example:
    • Manage flow in common areas, including hallways and around lockers, to minimize crowding and ensure people can pass through common areas easily
Gatherings and Events

Virtual in-school gatherings and assemblies only.

No in-person gatherings or assemblies, including but not limited to school concerts, school dances, etc.

Vulnerable Students and Staff  

Vulnerable students and staff can attend school; they may want to consult with their health care provider.

Alternative education plans (e.g., online learning) in place for those individuals who are at higher risk of COVID-19 and are not attending in person.

Community Use of Schools  If schools permit community use of school facilities and access to school buildings, organizations must follow current public health measures guidance.
Extracurricular Activities and School Sport

School sport games and competition suspended.

Group extracurricular activities (band, chess club, etc.) may proceed if physical distancing is maintained at all times.

Practice and training within teams and consistent groups of ten people or less will be reintroduced at future date. Reintroduction of school-based team training and practice will be consistent with the reintroduction of training and practice in sports and recreation in the community.

Testing 

Prior to the resumption of in-person classes, all students and staff will be asked to take two rapid antigen screening tests, 48 hours apart. If both test results are negative, the student or staff person may attend school.

As well, students will be asked to take rapid antigen screening tests up to 3 times per week during the first few weeks of school. Others who share a household with students and staff in the school system are not required to test prior to the resumption of school.

In the event of a positive rapid antigen screening test, the student or staff person must have a confirmatory test at a drop-in testing clinic at the earliest opportunity, and not attend school until they’ve received a negative result from a testing clinic. See here for drop-in testing clinic hours: https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/covidtesting. If a confirmatory test at a drop-in clinic is not available, the student or staff person must isolate at home for 24 hours and take another rapid antigen test. If this follow-up test is negative the student or staff person may attend school.

Initially, families will be provided two at-home rapid antigen screening tests per student prior to the resumption of in-person classes. Families will be provided additional rapid antigen screening tests to permit weekly testing in January. These additional screening testing requirements are intended to aid in early detection of positive cases and reduce the incidence and impacts of outbreaks in schools.

Contact Tracing and Outbreak Management Contact tracing and outbreak management procedures are currently being updated.

 
 

Published date: 
January 5, 2022
Health and Wellness

General Inquiries

Department of Health and Wellness
4th Floor North, Shaw Building
105 Rochford Street
Charlottetown, PE   C1A 7N8

Phone: 902-368-6414
Fax: 902-368-4121

DeptHW@gov.pe.ca