Algoma Public Health (file)

The Medical Officer of Health and CEO for Algoma Public Health (APH), Dr. Jennifer Loo, has provided school boards in the Sault area with instructions and recommendations for those returning to in-class learning in January.

In a statement released on the APH website, Dr. Loo started by recognizing school boards for their work throughout the pandemic and encouraged their continued support in protecting communities in the Algoma region.

Earlier this week, the Ford government announced plans to extend the province wide shutdown until at least Jan. 23, with elementary and secondary school in northern Ontario returning to in-class learning on Jan. 11. 

However, secondary schools in the Sault area will not return to in-class learning until at least Jan. 25.

“COVID-19 activity is not the same throughout the north, nor throughout Algoma,” said Dr. Loo in the statement. 

“In local areas where there has been an increase in COVID-19 activity, there is a vital need to keep strong preventive measures in place.  At the same time, we must work together to minimize impacts on student learning, to support the school community, and to support families and essential worker parents, who depend on in-person learning, and whose essential work is critical to the pandemic response.”

Citing her authority under the Reopening Act, Dr. Loo issued a new set of guidelines for school boards across the Algoma region who are set to have students return in January.

School boards and persons responsible for operating elementary and high schools are instructed to take the following actions:

  1. For high schools in Sault Ste. Marie, delay the provision of in-person teaching or instructions to students in grades 9-12 until at least January 25.

    a) Exception: In-person instruction to students with special education needs who cannot be accommodated through remote learning and who wish to attend in-person instruction may continue.

School boards and persons responsible for operating elementary and high schools are furthermore strongly recommended to take the following actions:

  1. In schools across Algoma, continue to provide both online and in-person learning options to all elementary students, which allows for parental choice, and balances the need to minimize risk of exposure while supporting families with essential work, health or other needs so that their young students can learn in-person.
  2. In schools across Algoma, encourage parents and students to delay return to in-person learning in January 2021, in the following circumstances:

    a) The student and/or their household has recently travelled out-of-district; OR
    b) The student and/or their household has recently received out-of-district visitors
    Delay would be for a 14-day period starting from the date of return to Algoma, or from the last point of contact with an out-of-district visitor.
  3. In schools across Algoma, continue to maintain rigorous preventive measures in all in-person settings, including:

    a) Remaining home if ill, even with mild symptoms, and seeking COVID-19 testing as appropriate;
    b) Daily symptom screening;
    c) Student masking, including strong recommendation of masking in kindergarten to grade 3 where tolerated;
    d) Strict staff adherence to PPE, including the use of medical masks and eye protection at all times;
    e) Strict staff adherence to physical distancing and masking/PPE during breaks, if other coworkers are present.

Students and parents are encouraged to visit their school website for further details and updates.