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AP 342

Responding to Illness in Schools & District Sites

Background


The safety and well-being of students and staff are of primary importance. As part of the response to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the BC Ministry of Education is requiring School Districts to:

1.     Establish procedures for those who become sick at school or a district-site to go home as soon as possible.

2.     Establish procedures that allow for students and staff to return to school or a district-site with mild symptoms of illness remaining (in accordance with K-12 Public Health Guidance) to ensure staff and students are not kept out of school longer than necessary.

In alignment with provincial protocols, this procedure sets guidelines for a response if a student or staff becomes ill while at school.

Preface


This document provides an overview of the procedures that will be implemented by the health authority, and Abbotsford School District’s role in the event of a case, cluster or outbreak of COVID-19 in a school or district-site setting. This document will be revised as needed, pending the Ministry of Health/Ministry of Education updates.

The procedures outlined are to be followed by school district administrators and managers in support of the health authority’s process for managing a COVID-19 incident.

  • Medical health officers are physicians who work within health authorities and have authority and responsibilities outlined in the Public Health Act.
  • School medical officers are medical health officers who have additional authority and responsibilities outlined in the School Act. Every school has a school medical officer assigned to it.
  • If there is a confirmed case, cluster or outbreak of COVID-19 in a school or district-site, the school medical officer will lead the response.
  • This includes working with the school or district-site to determine if any additional measures or changes to health and safety plan are required.

Procedures


1.      School and School District Responsibilities

School district administrators/managers will:

1.1    Work with school medical officers to support contact tracing and additional measures required in the event of a confirmed case(s) of COVID-19 in the school community. Any additional measures will be determined by the school medical officer and will take into consideration the unique circumstances of the school and the confirmed case(s).

1.2     Notify Assistant Superintendent/Superintendent/Director of a confirmed case(s) of COVID-19 in the school or district-site. The Superintendent (or designate) will notify the Ministry of Education and Board of Education.

1.3     Continue to implement COVID-19 health and safety policies and procedures, including managing symptoms of illness among students and staff.

1.4     Ensure school-level and site-level policies and procedures continue to align with school district/authority policies, BCCDC guidance and provincial K-12 health and safety guidelines.

2.      Protocol if a Student/Staff Develops Symptoms of Illness at School or a District-Site

If a student or staff member develops symptoms at school or a district-site, schools or district-sites should:

2.1     Provide the student/staff with a non-medical mask if they don’t have one (exceptions should be made for students and staff who cannot wear masks for medical and/or disability-related reasons).

2.2     Provide the student/staff with a space where they can wait comfortably that is separated from others (younger children should be supervised when separated).

2.3     Make arrangements for the student/staff to go home as soon as possible.

2.4     Contact the student’s parent/caregiver with a request to have their child picked up as soon as possible.

2.5     Contact custodial services (e.g., site-based custodian and custodial manager) to clean and disinfect the areas the student/staff used. Level 2 cleaning procedures in Infection Prevention and Control Program should be followed unless responding to a confirmed case of COVID 19, which would be escalated to
Level 3.

2.6     Advise the student/staff to connect with their health-care provider or call 8-1-1 and stay home until COVID-19 has been excluded and symptoms have improved.

3.      Returning to School or a District-Site After Illness

3.1     Anyone experiencing symptoms of illness should not return to school or their district-site until they have been assessed by a health-care provider to exclude COVID-19 or other infectious diseases AND their symptoms have improved.

3.2     School administrators/managers are responsible for confirming and recording that the child/staff member is well enough to return to school or district-site. Confirmation is completed through mysafety [at] abbyschools.ca. A doctor’s note will not be required to confirm the health status of any individual with relation to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Medical documentation required for accommodation purposes is excluded from this requirement.

3.3     If a health assessment recommends testing to exclude COVID-19, students and staff who have been tested must stay home while awaiting their test results.

3.4     Students and staff with symptoms who have had COVID-19 excluded should not return to school until their symptoms have improved, and they feel well enough.

3.5     If a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, the health authority will provide further instructions to the student or staff member about when they can return to school.

3.6     If a COVID-19 test is not recommended by the health assessment, the person can return to school when symptoms have improved, and they feel well enough. Testing may not be recommended if the assessment determines that the symptoms are due to another cause (i.e., not COVID-19).

3.7     A person with mild symptoms may elect to seek COVID-19 testing, even when this is not required according to the above guidance. Having a pending COVID-19 test result should not, by itself, be a reason to exclude a person from school if there are no other reasons to exclude them.

4.      Protocol in the event of a confirmed COVID-19 case in a school or district-site

Positive COVID-19 cases are only ever confirmed by official public health authorities, in our case, the Fraser Health Authority.

4.1     If a student, staff or other individual who has been in a school or district-site has a confirmed case of COVID-19 through testing or investigation (i.e., case finding), the local health authority will initiate contact tracing to determine how they were infected and who else may have been at risk of infection.

4.2     If there was a potential exposure at a school or district-site the health authority will work with the school administrator/district leader to understand who may have been exposed, and to determine what actions should be taken, including identifying if other students or staff are sick or have been exposed and should monitor for symptoms or self-isolate.

4.3     If there was no potential exposure at the school or district-site, the health authority will not notify the school administrator/district leader.

5.      Self-Isolation and Additional Measures

5.1     Health authority staff will identify and directly notify close contacts of a confirmed case who are required to self-isolate.

5.2     Health authorities ensure those required to self-isolate have access to health-care providers and that other appropriate supports are in place.

5.3     Students and staff are only required to self-isolate if directed to do so by health authority staff; this includes members of the learning group of the confirmed case.

5.4     School administrators should ensure the necessary plans are in place to support continuity of learning for students who are required to self-isolate.

5.5     Human Resources will arrange coverage for staff who are required to self-isolate.

5.6     Other people who are not identified as close contacts of a confirmed case, but who may have interacted with the confirmed case while they were infectious, may be advised by health authority staff to self-monitor for symptoms but can still attend school.

School medical officers may require additional measures to be taken which may include:

  • Requesting students and staff to stay home until contact tracing has been completed;
  • Self-isolation of a learning group or staff group (e.g., department);
  • Additional cleaning/disinfecting requirements; and
  • Temporary restrictions or modifications of certain school activities.

School medical officers will consider similar measures, as outlined above, in the event of a school or district-site cluster. Only in exceptional circumstances would a school medical officer consider a school or district-site closure.

6.      Communications and Protecting Personal Privacy

6.1     School medical officers will play the lead role in determining if, when and how to communicate information regarding a confirmed case to a school community or district-site.

6.2     To protect personal privacy rights, health authorities will not disclose that a student or staff member has a confirmed case of COVID-19 unless there is reason to believe they may have been infectious when they attended school or the district-site. In this case, the health authority will provide only the information required to support effective contact tracing and only to the school administrator/district leader or delegate.

6.3     Health authority staff will notify everyone who they determine may have been exposed, including if any follow-up actions are recommended (e.g., self-isolate, monitor for symptoms, etc.).

6.4     School medical officers will also work with the school administrator/district leader to determine if additional notifications are warranted (e.g., notification to the broader school community, district-site, etc.).

6.5     To ensure personal privacy rights are maintained and that information provided is complete and correct, school administrators/managers should not provide any public statements or communications to staff or students’ families about potential or confirmed COVID-19 cases. Public statements or communications will only ever come from the Superintendent or designate (e.g., District Communications).

6.6     School district administrators/managers should be aware that individuals who test positive for COVID-19, or who are required to self-isolate if they are determined to be a close contact of a confirmed case, may experience stigma and discrimination.

6.7     School district administrators/managers should seek out opportunities to foster compassion and empathy in the school community or district-site, and offer support to affected individuals and their families while respecting their privacy, to help reduce the impact of COVID-19 on people’s social and emotional well-being.

6.8     In partnership with the school medical health officer and Fraser Health, the school district may send a letter home to families or staff when a COVID-19 case is confirmed at a school or district-site. As a reminder, public statements or communications regarding COVID-19 cases will only ever come from the Superintendent or designate.

6.9     The Superintendent or designate (e.g., Secretary-Treasurer or Assistant Superintendent) will promptly inform the Ministry of Education of significant events (e.g., confirmed case or outbreak) and associated communications to school communities related to COVID-19.

6.10   Principals/managers should refer all media inquiries to the school district’s Manager of Communications. The school district will not respond to media requests regarding confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases, potential exposure at a school or district-site or potential risk of transmission within a school or district-site setting. Rather, these requests will be directed to the regional health authority for response.

7.      Additional Scenarios and Communications Protocols

7.1     School Administrator Informed of Confirmed Case of COVID-19 by staff or parent

  • 7.1.1   There may be circumstances where a staff member or parent contacts a school administrator to inform them that they/their child is a confirmed case, but the school administrator has not been contacted by the school medical officer. Principals should notify their Assistant Superintendent/Supervisor of these situations.
  • 7.1.2   School administrators do not need to contact their school medical officer to inform them of the confirmed case - the local health authority will already be aware of the confirmed case and will initiate contact tracing.
  • 7.1.3   School medical officers will only contact the school administrator if it is determined that the confirmed case was infectious while they were at school or if the confirmed case was infected while at school.
  • 7.1.4   The contact tracing process can take a few days to complete. In the interim, the Manager of Communications will support schools and district-sites with key messaging when communicating with members of their school community.
  • 7.1.5   Consideration will be given to limiting the scope of communications as much as possible, ensuring that communications do not contain any personally identifiable information, and seeking guidance from the school medical officer when needed.

7.2     Rumour of COVlD-19 Case Circulating in School Community or district-site

  • 7.2.1   School administration/Managers must immediately inform their Assistant Superintendent/Director of any rumour about COVID-19 that they become aware of at the school or district-site. The Manager of Communications will support schools and district-sites with key messaging when communicating with members of their school community or district-site.
  • 7.2.2   School administrators/managers should keep their school Assistant Superintendent/Director informed of the situation.

7.3  Close Contacts of a Confirmed Case of COVID-19

  • 7.3.1   If a health authority determines that a student or staff is a close contact of a confirmed case of COVID-19 (e.g., family member, social contact outside of the school, etc.), they will be required to self-isolate. Only health authorities can determine who is a close contact.
  • 7.3.2   School administrators will not be notified by the school medical officer if a student or staff is identified as a close contact of a confirmed case.
  • 7.3.3   School administrators should ensure the necessary plans are in place to support continuity of learning for students who are required to self-isolate.
  • 7.3.4   Depending on the circumstances (e.g., type of interactions, when and how long they were exposed, ability of a confirmed case to fully self-isolate from others in their household, etc.), public health may determine that someone who was in contact with a confirmed case while they were infectious is at low risk of developing COVID-19. In this situation, the person may be asked to self-monitor for symptoms but will not be required to self-isolate. Individuals asked to self-monitor for symptoms may continue to attend school.

8.      Records Management and Contact Tracing

8.1  In the event of a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the school or district-site, the health authority may request contact information for students, staff, volunteers and/or visitors during a specific time period to support contact tracing activities. This information should be easily accessible by school administrators/managers and quickly provided to the health authority upon request.

For school locations, school administration is responsible for securing the following records:

  • Student and staff attendance;
  • Class, learning group and school bus lists and seating assignments from the transportation department;
  • Current contact information for students, parents/caregivers and staff;
  • Attendance lists for onsite programs (including participants, staff and volunteers); and visitor logs.

Contact information must include names, emails and phone numbers.

References:


Ministry of Education Covid-19-Protocols-for-Administrators

(New: January 2021)

 

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