Chief Public Health Office recommends further delay for in-class learning

Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Heather Morrison, is recommending a further delay to the opening of public and private schools to in-class learning until January 17, with a further assessment next week. 

The Chief Public Health Office has prepared Back to School Guidance for January 2022. The return to in-class learning will depend on the epidemiology in the province and the ongoing impact of the Omicron variant in PEI.

“This was a challenging decision that was based on balancing safety and the overall health and wellbeing of children.We know how important in-class learning is for children’s physical developmental and mental health and learning. Given the reality of our uncertain situation with COVID-19, we need more time to better understand the impact of the Omicron variant on all age groups, including children, and take steps to ensure a safer return to school.” 

- Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Heather Morrison

The Back to School Guidance for January 2022 includes public health measures to minimize risk and disruption and increase safety in schools when students and staff return to in-class learning. 

Some measures contained in the CPHO Back to School Guidance for 2022 include:

  • Masks will be required for all students, teachers and visitors in all indoor areas; children and staff should have access to a good quality three-layer mask.
  • Prior to resuming class all students and staff members will be asked to take two rapid antigen screening tests, 48 hours apart; students will be tested up to three (3) times per week during the first few weeks of school.
  • Students and staff must complete daily home active screening for symptoms and should not attend school if they are not feeling well or have symptoms of COVID-19.
  • Where possible, schools should implement cohorting of students and staff, and cohorts should be 50 or less; cohorting is not required in grades 10-12.
  • Portable air filters are recommended in classrooms that lack mechanical ventilation.
  • Physical distancing is recommended in all areas, including staff rooms; students are encouraged to select a small, consistent group of friends to associate with in school and on buses.
  • All students and staff eligible for vaccination should be fully immunized.

The Department of Education and Lifelong Learning is working with the educational authorities to ensure all of the Back to School Guidance from the CPHO is implemented prior to the return to in-class learning. 

175 new portable HEPA filters have been purchased and are being delivered this week to schools that currently rely on natural ventilation. Every classroom and high use area within these 10 schools will be fitted with one of the portable ventilation units. Work is also ongoing to ensure the current mechanical systems are maintained and working efficiently, based on industry standards.

Over the next two weeks all excess furniture will be removed from classrooms to give more space for physical distancing, and 30,000 three-layer reusable masks will be delivered to schools for students and staff before the return to in-class learning.

The Public Schools Branch and La Commission scolaire de langue française have COVID-19 response teams in place to help support the preparations for the return to in-class learning. School operational plans will be updated this week.

Respite care will continue for students with special needs who are currently supported by a school Educational Assistant (EA) or Youth Service Worker (YSW). Student Services will be reaching out to families who have shown they have a need for respite care.  Parents or guardians who are interested in receiving this support can email respite@edu.pe.ca if their student is in the English school system, and CSLF@edu.pe.ca if they are in the French school system.

Schools will be reaching out to parents directly on the remote learning procedures. Employers are encouraged to be flexible with parents who are arranging for childcare.

School distribution plans for the rapid antigen tests for students and staff are still being finalized. Parents and guardians can expect to hear from their school principals on the exact details of how they will be distributing the testing kits.

“Our goal throughout this process is to work together to support both students and staff. We recognize that every family situation is different and remote learning can be challenging. We encourage parents to do their best, and if they feel overwhelmed, to reach out to their teachers or principal for support – they are there to help.” 

- Education and Lifelong Learning Minister Natalie Jameson

In addition, updated Child Care Centre Guidance will be shared from the CPHO with operators later today. 

Early learning and child care centres will also be receiving triple-layer masks for their staff, as well as additional rapid antigen tests for both children and staff. 

Islanders are reminded that supports are available for those impacted by COVID-19.  The Prince Edward Island Emergency Payment for Workers, Emergency Income Relief for Self-Employed, and the COVID-19 Special Leave Fund programs are now accepting applications.  Islanders may also be eligible for programs through the Government of Canada such as the Canada Worker Lockdown Benefit, the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit or the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit.

Individuals who are isolating and require supports are encouraged to dial 2-1-1 to be directed to nearby community support systems, or provincial government service offices.  This assistance includes help with securing food, personal prescriptions, over-the-counter medications and other emergency situations.  A modified school food lunch program is also available to have pre-cooked meals delivered to homes starting this week.  The program operates on a self-referral basis.  More information is available here

As always, all Islanders are urged to get tested if they experience any symptoms of COVID-19, even after a previous negative test, and to self-isolate until the results come back. Islanders are also encouraged to download the free national COVID Alert app, which will let them know if they have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

As of Saturday, January 1, 2022, 95.5 per cent of eligible Island residents age 12 years and over have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 92.3 per cent are fully vaccinated with two doses. 41.9 per cent of children age 5-11 years have received their first dose. Over 20,500 people have received their third dose of COVID-19 booster. 

Individuals should book their booster appointment for six months after their last dose. Getting a booster is an important layer or protection against serious illness related to the Omicron variant.

Anyone age 12 and over can receive their COVID-19 vaccination at one of the Health PEI clinics or at one of the 28 partner pharmacies across the province. Island children between the ages of five and 11 years can now receive their COVID-19 vaccination at Health PEI clinics.  

For information on PEI’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout, including vaccine facts, immunization data and booking an appointment, visit: COVID-19 Vaccines. For answers to commonly asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccines, visit: Answers to Common COVID-19 Vaccine Questions.

For the latest information about Prince Edward Island’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, visit: COVID-19 (coronavirus) in Prince Edward Island

The Chief Public Health Office continues to work closely with the federal government, provincial and territorial counterparts, government departments and Health PEI to monitor the pandemic situation and prepare for all COVID-19 related impacts to the province, including health, social and economic. The public health risk of COVID-19 is continually reassessed, and Islanders will be updated as new information becomes available.

Everyone is encouraged to follow routine prevention measures:

  • Get vaccinated
  • Wear a properly fitted, three-layer mask in indoor public places and in outdoor public places where physical distancing from others cannot be maintained
  • Keep your circle of contacts small
  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water
  • Cough and sneeze into your elbow or a tissue
  • Stay home if you are not feeling well
  • Limit touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Physical distance - stay two meters (6 feet) apart
  • Don’t share items like drinking glasses and water bottles
  • Frequently clean surfaces like taps, doorknobs and countertops
  • Visit a drop-in-clinic to be tested if you have COVID-19 symptoms

Media Contacts:
Samantha Hughes
Health and Wellness
(902) 316-1323

Autumn Tremere
Education and Lifelong Learning
(902) 368-6449

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