The Government of Saskatchewan has released new guidelines for how schools will handle positive COVID-19 cases, outbreaks and testing.
“Today we are releasing parent information packages for distribution through Saskatchewan’s 27 school divisions to ensure that important information and guidance is available,” Gordon Wyant, Saskatchewan’s Education Minister, said.
“This includes what parents can expect if a student in their child’s class tests positive for COVID-19, and thresholds for changes to in-classroom learning.”
Parents are asked to keep kids home if they are sick, or if anyone living in the home has tested positive for COVID-19. The province said everyone in the home must self-isolate for 14 days, from the last exposure, if anyone tests positive for the virus.
POSITIVE TESTS IN SCHOOLS
In the case of a positive COVID-19 test result for a student, teacher or staff member, the province said public health will assist and begin contact tracing.
Teachers, staff and parents/caregivers of students who are considered a close contact of someone who tested positive will be contacted.
Anyone within the same classroom, or cohort, of a person with COVID-19 will be contacted by public health and their school by email. People within the cohort will be advised to self-monitor for symptoms and will be offered priority testing.
The province notes any further action from Public Health will vary depending on the situation and that a positive case in a classroom may not present a high-risk to the entire cohort.
Self-isolation at home could be recommended depending on the severity of the situation.
The province said an outbreak will be declared if two people within a school test positive for COVID-19.
In the Safe Schools Plan, it is noted that an outbreak does not immediately result in the closure of the school.
In the case of an outbreak declaration, all parents at that school will be notified and the declaration will be posted to the government’s website.
If two positive cases of COVID-19 are confirmed in one classroom, the government said the class will receive alternate instruction, or non-classroom, arrangements for 14 days. Public health will instruct the school on further actions, before it is safe for the class to return.
Some situations could lead to entire schools or certain sections receiving non-classroom instruction, including if there are two or more positive COVID-19 cases in more than one classroom, and there are regularly shared common areas; and if Public Health cannot establish transmission links between cases.
The province said in some cases these circumstances may only apply to a certain wing of a school, however if this characterizes an entire school, the whole population will be moved to alternative learning options.
NOTIFICATION OF ILLNESS
The Government of Saskatchewan said parents will be advised if a COVID-19-related risk is identified to the health and safety of students, staff or the school community.
If a student, teacher or staff member exhibits COVID-19 symptoms while at school, the province said they will be asked to put on a mask and self-isolate in a separate room, until they can go home. Testing is recommended if symptoms are shown.
Public health will give guidance on a return to school.
Teachers and school staff have been given priority access to COVID-19 testing before and during the school year. These staff can call 811 to get referred for a test.
The province is also working to implement voluntary COVID-19 testing alongside school immunizations for grade six and eight students. The province said it will provide information to parents about this program once the details are finalized.
Voluntary testing will also be available in schools, with parental consent. Schools will notify parents and caregivers one week before scheduled voluntary testing is occurring in their area. Consent forms wil be sent home at that time.
Drive-thru testing sites will open in Saskatoon and Regina soon, according to the province. These sites will not require a referral, only a valid health card. The province said opening dates and locations will be released in the coming days.
Communities with large student populations and communities seeing a surge in infection rates will be prioritized for in-school testing.
COVID-19 testing remains available to anyone who requests it. Call 811 to be referred for a test.
TIPS FOR PARENTS AND CAREGIVERS
The Government of Saskatchewan suggested multiple tips for parents to help prepare their children for their return to school.
The province says parents should review how and when kids should wash their hands and provide hand sanitizer for when soap and water aren’t available.
Demonstrations of physical distancing can help give kids a reference of what two metres looks like. Parents can also practice putting on, wearing and removing masks with their kids.
The province also suggests modelling these behaviours for children inside and outside of the home.
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