Chief Public Health Office Back-to-School Guidance - May 2022

Public and private schools returned to in-class instruction on January 31, 2022.This delayed return allowed time for the Chief Public Health Office to further understand the impact of the Omicron variant on populations in PEI, and provided time for the school system to adjust procedures to ensure a safer environment for students and staff when in-class instruction resumed.

Prince Edward Island continues to ease public health measures to support living with COVID-19 as an endemic disease, now that the public health state of emergency has been lifted. Easing measures in the school system will continue to be assessed and prioritized as the situation permits.

Testing

Effective May 24th, students and staff are no longer required to conduct regular rapid antigen screening tests prior to attending school. The Chief Public Health Office recommends that students and staff do not attend school if they are feeling unwell. If students or staff have any symptoms of COVID-19, they should be tested at a COVID-19 testing clinic. For individuals and families who choose to continue regular rapid antigen screening tests, schools will have a supply of tests available. Antigen tests are also available at Access PEI sites across the Province. Rapid antigen screening works best when the same individual is tested three times per week.

Testing clinic hours and locations are available online.

Public Health Measures in Schools

The following public health measures will be in effect until further notice.  Public health directives to individuals supersede all guidelines contained herein.

Public Health Measures in Schools
Vaccination 

Recommend everyone eligible get vaccinated with a complete series (as well as booster dose, if applicable) of Health Canada-approved COVID-19 vaccines.

Vaccination is the best protection against COVID-19. 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 provide good protection against serious outcomes and hospitalization from COVID-19 and its variants.

Screening and Management of Symptoms of COVID-19

Daily home or self- screening for symptoms of COVID-19 using the COVID-19 symptom screening tool is recommended for staff, students and visitors. 

If experiencing symptoms of COVID19, get tested at a COVID-19 testing clinic.

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

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

Hand Hygiene

Frequent handwashing and using hand sanitizer is encouraged throughout the day and proper respiratory etiquette.

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, and sneezing and coughing etiquette, should be clearly posted throughout the school.

Cleaning and Disinfection Regular cleaning and disinfection schedules should be maintained, with additional attention to frequently touched objects (e.g., door handles, railings, and waste containers), and shared items (e.g., sports equipment) both in schools and on buses. 
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  

Masks continue to be recommended in indoor public spaces.  In addition, masks are recommended for staff who work with students who are at higher risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19, whenever physical distancing is not possible.

It is the choice of the student, staff, or visitor to wear a mask if they choose. Anyone who chooses to wear a mask is supported in doing so.  As of May 24th , masks are not legally required for students or staff while in school or on school buses.

Cohorting  

Cohorting is no longer required.

Visitors should be limited to essential activities for supporting learning.

Physical Distancing

Physical distancing is not required, however, preventing crowding in indoor common spaces is recommended.

Gatherings and Events In-person gatherings or assemblies, including but not limited to school concerts, after-school or intramural clubs, school dances, etc., may occur as per current public health measures.
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.
Bussing Alternative means of transportation other than bussing are encouraged, where reasonable, including walking, bicycle riding, and parent/guardian drop off and pick-up.
Extracurricular Activities and School Sport

School sports, competitions and extracurricular activities may occur in accordance with current public health measures.

Testing 

Screening with rapid antigen tests is no longer required for students and staff in K-12 schools.

Schools will continue to have access to test kits for individuals or families who wish to continue testing regularly.

Cases, Contact Tracing, and Outbreak Management Case follow-up will be done in accordance with current public health measures. Schools should continue to maintain accurate attendance records and class and bus lists to assist with contact tracing, if required. School administrators will be provided guidance on case and contact management for the school setting.

Case and Contact Management

Measures for managing cases of COVID-19 in schools

The Chief Public Health Office will work with school authorities in order to:

  • Identify cases;
  • Initiate testing and isolation measures when needed; and
  • Provide follow-up recommendations to prevent further spread of COVID in the school community.

These measures will continue to be updated.

School officials, in consultation with the Chief Public Health Office, will monitor to determine when it is necessary to close a school either because the number of students absent will significantly impact learning, or because the number of staff absent from work will lead to untenable or unsafe operational situations. The Chief Public Health Office will support school officials regarding decision-making for enhanced measures in schools when necessary, including the potential of moving to online learning.

Communication to parents, guardians and staff will be the responsibility of the school administration, with support from the Chief Public Health Office.

Published date: 
May 19, 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