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Recommended measures for Peel schools

We’re working with local boards to keep school communities safe

The Ontario government released health, safety, and operational guidance for schools for the 2021-2022 school year. Refer to the provincial guidance for more information on the health and safety measures schools must follow to protect students and the school community.

In addition to the provincial measures, Peel Public Health has worked with local school boards to develop recommendations that address our local context.

These local recommendations should be considered in addition to the minimum requirements outlined by the provincial guidance and may be updated as our COVID-19 context evolves in Peel.

Other information

Screening

  • Schools should implement daily on-site verification of student, staff, and visitor self-screening results. This practice is especially recommended during periods of increased risk; for example, during an outbreak, after holidays, or after a COVID-19 exposure
  • Students who don't complete the screening tool should be physically distanced from others while the school contacts parents or guardians to verify screening.
  • Schools should document the “baseline” symptoms of special education students. This will help staff more easily identify worsening symptoms or any changes in a student's health and well-being throughout the day.

Visitors

  • Schools should discourage non-essential visitors, such as parents or guardians picking up children from their classrooms, with necessary exceptions as determined by the school. School nutrition program volunteers are considered essential visitors.
  • Schools should maintain a daily visitor log. This log should include a visitor's name, the visit date and time, who the visitor interacted with in the school, and the areas they visited.
  • Peel Public Health strongly recommends that school boards and private schools require students in kindergarten (JK and SK) to wear masks while attending school in-person and while on school vehicles. Reasonable exceptions on the requirement to wear masks apply (e.g., those who have trouble breathing or cannot wear a mask for medical reasons).
  • Students should ideally wear non-medical masks with 3 layers. Staff and visitors should wear medical masks. To learn more about wearing masks while attending school in-person, refer to daily prevention measures for students.
  • Students, staff and visitors should wear masks at all times, except when they’re alone in a room, they’re eating or drinking while physically distanced by 2 metres from others (and ideally not facing each other), and outdoors when 2 metres of physical distance can be consistently maintained from others.
  • Schools should post signage reminding students, staff, and visitors how to properly wear masks. Refer to our COVID-19 resources for more information.
  • Staff and visitors should wear eye protection indoors when they are within 2 metres of an unmasked person or when staff might be caring for someone with symptoms.
  • Some young children cannot or will not consistently wear a mask. Staff working indoors with these children should always wear masks and eye protection, except when eating or drinking 2 metres apart from others. 
  • Wearing eye protection outdoors is recommended in situations where longer periods of close contact with an unmasked student might happen, such as attending to an injured child.

The 4 moments of hand hygiene

  1. Before initial contact with a person or the person's environment
  2. Before helping a person
  3. After a body fluid exposure risk
  4. After contact with a person or the person's environment

Promoting hand hygiene throughout the day

  • All individuals in schools should practice frequent hand hygiene throughout the day. Using gloves does not replace the need for proper hand hygiene.
  • Schools should have alcohol-based hand rub (ABHR) and signage demonstrating appropriate use clearly visible in all classrooms, spaces, and environments, including entrances and exits to common areas (such as gymnasiums).
  • Schools should develop and implement a schedule for students to regularly and frequently perform hand hygiene.
  • Schools should post signage promoting hand hygiene to students, staff, and visitors. Refer to our COVID-19 resources for more information.

Cleaning and disinfection

  • Schools should implement standard policies, procedures, and schedules promoting cleaning and disinfection of high-touch materials, objects, and surfaces at least twice a day.
  • Schools should post signage to remind staff to clean and disinfect regularly touched surfaces and objects in all classrooms, spaces, and environments at least twice a day.
  • Shared materials should be cleaned before being stored. 
  • As much as possible, schools should choose equipment and objects with hard, non-porous and wipeable surfaces that can be easily cleaned and disinfected.
  • Playground structures do not need to be cleaned or disinfected between uses.
  • Ensure everyone practices hand hygiene before and after using playground structures or items shared while playing sports.

Ventilation

  • Follow the manufacturer's instructions for cleaning and disinfecting portable air conditioning units that are used in group settings.
  • Ideally place air conditioning units and fans where the airflow is directed away from head level of those in the room.
  • Schools should have at least one dedicated isolation room to use if any students develop symptoms while at school.
  • Only one person should use the room to reduce the risk of transmission.
  • Furniture in the isolation room should be arranged to allow at least 2 metres' distance from the symptomatic person.
  • Ensure that isolation room is cleaned and disinfected after each use. 

Isolation rooms should have PPE kits

PPE kits in isolation rooms should be used by the symptomatic person and the staff member attending to them. Instructions for proper PPE usage should be posted on the isolation room door.

A PPE kit should include:

  • alcohol-based hand rub (ABHR)
  • disinfectant
  • disposable gowns
  • gloves
  • goggles
  • medical masks
  • a thermometer

General guidelines

  • Use visual cues, guides, or markings to indicate appropriate physical distances between people, furniture, and objects.
  • Large indoor gatherings in schools — including assemblies — should be paused until further notice.
  • Locker use should be permitted with as much masking and physical distancing as possible.
  • When possible, students should stay in the classroom for subjects taught by a teacher other than their regular homeroom teacher, with the teacher moving from classroom to classroom.
  • Schools should post signage and use visual cues to promote physical distancing and capacity limits in commonly-used shared spaces and environments. Refer to our COVID-19 resources for more information.
  • As often as possible, staff should avoid congregating without being physically distanced and wearing appropriate PPE. If carpooling is necessary, staff should wear medical masks for the duration of the journey.
  • In-person indoor staff meetings should be avoided at this time.

Physical distancing in shared school spaces

  • Maintain as much physical distance as possible between people and especially between cohorts.
  • In elementary schools, maintain class cohorts during recess and lunch breaks and a physical distance of 2 metres between cohorts as much as possible.
  • Masks should be worn outdoors — including during recess — if physical distance cannot be maintained between cohorts.
  • Use visual cues such as pylons to separate cohorts.
  • Large outdoor gatherings and assemblies should be staggered. Students should stay with their  cohorts while maintaining as much physical distance as possible and keeping 2 metres apart from other cohorts.
  • Consider assigning cohorts to specific entrances and exits or staggering start and departure times for different cohorts.
  • To maintain physical distancing as much as possible, consider labelling the hooks in coatrooms and allow for staggered movement into the room.
  • Shared spaces in schools such as gyms and libraries should have capacity limits that allow for 2 metres of physical distancing between people. These shared spaces should ideally be used by only one cohort at a time.
  • Where feasible, assign washrooms to specific cohorts or stagger the use of washrooms by different cohorts. Stalls, urinals, and sinks should be marked to allow for 2 metres of physical distance between people.
  • When people from different cohorts use a shared indoor space, including common staff areas, maintain sign-in and sign-out protocols, assign people to seats (if applicable), and maintain 2 metres of physical distance as much as possible.

Common area, cafeteria, and lunchroom settings

  • Avoid facing other people as much as possible while eating and drinking.
  • Students should physically distance as much as possible while eating or drinking.
  • If students are allowed to eat or drink in common areas in the school, lunch times should be staggered as much as possible to avoid congregation.
  • Capacity limits should allow for 2 metres of physical distancing in the cafeteria, staff rooms, and any other shared spaces.
  • Sign-in and sign-out sheets should be used in cafeterias and lunch rooms to facilitate contact tracing.
  • To avoid congregation in the cafeteria, consider promoting grab-and-go food options, prepayment of food, or buying food at an alternative location.
  • Use physical distancing markers to show where people should stand when lining up to buy food.
  • Fully vaccinated staff and students who are exposed to a person with COVID-19 should eat apart from others until the end of their self-monitoring period.

Elementary schools

  • Elementary students should preferably eat outdoors while physical distancing.
  • While indoors, elementary students should eat at their desks, within their cohort, while physically distanced as much as possible.

High schools

  • High school students may eat in a cafeteria within their cohorts.
  • Students should be physically distanced as much as possible, and 2 metres away from other cohorts.
  • Where possible, encourage staff and students to eat their lunch outdoors while physically distanced.
  • To reduce the risk of transmission, courtesy ridership programs should not be permitted for the 2021-2022 school year. In line with the Ministry of Education’s direction, this prevention measure reduces the risk of COVID-19 within school bus cohorts by allowing for students to be seated in a manner that maximizes physical distancing.
  • If parents or guardians are picking up or dropping off students, arrival and departure times should be staggered.

School bus guidelines

  • When possible, windows should be open to increase ventilation.
  • Seating assignments by cohort and household should be enforced for contract tracing purposes.
  • The seat behind the driver and the first seat opposite the driver should stay vacant.
  • Enhanced cleaning protocol of disinfecting high-touch surfaces such as handrails and seatbacks should be completed at least twice daily.
  • The arrival or departure of students should be staggered to allow for physical distancing when boarding or exiting the bus.
  • Students, bus drivers, aides, and all staff should practice hand hygiene before or after boarding the bus.
  • Schools should promote additional means of transportation such as walking or cycling to reduce bus cohort sizes.
  • Whenever possible, singing and playing wind instruments should be performed with students in the same cohort either outdoors or in a well–ventilated space
  • Masking is required for singing outdoors if physical distancing cannot be maintained between people within the same cohort.
  • Those singing and playing instruments indoors should physically distance as much as possible and avoid facing each other. If singing is performed indoors, performers should wear a mask, even if physically distanced.
  • Ideally music instruments should be assigned to individual students and not shared. Instruments that are shared should be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before and after each use.
  • Physical activity – especially high-intensity or high-contact physical activity – should ideally be performed outdoors while maintaining as much physical distance as possible.
  • During indoor physical activity, maintain as much physical distancing as possible between people. Where feasible, open windows to support increased ventilation.
  • Wear masks for all forms of indoor physical activity where masks can be worn safely; for example, when masks will not interfere with vision or create a choking hazard in tackling sports.
  • Replace masks frequently if they are damp, moist, compromised, or damaged.
  • Always wear masks while using the gym, pools, change rooms, weight rooms, and indoor physical activity equipment, except when entering a swimming pool.
  • When using pools and surrounding areas, maintain a physical distance of 2 metres between cohorts.
  • Attendance records should be maintained for all physical activities.
  • Evidence suggests high contact sports pose a higher risk of COVID-19 transmission compared to other sports. Peel Public Health strongly recommends that all eligible coaches and students participating in high contact sports are fully vaccinated.

Field trips

  • Day and overnight field trips are permitted and should follow provincial requirements. All efforts should be made to limit the spread of COVID-19 during day and overnight field trips.
  • Consider virtual field trips instead of in-person field trips, where possible.
  • Outdoor field trips are preferred over indoor field trips at this time. Avoid field trips to locations with large crowds.
  • For the duration of the trip, students should remain in their class cohorts or smaller groupings of their class cohort.
  • Everyone should be screened upon arrival. Student pick ups and drop offs should happen within a designated area.
  • To facilitate contact tracing, maintain accurate records of all people attending the field trip. This includes a participant's, name, contact information, arrival and departure time, and confirmation that screening was completed.

Extracurricular activities

  • Consider limiting extracurricular clubs in the fall.
  • Consider limiting the number of clubs that a student can participate in.
  • A COVID-19 safety plan should be submitted by external organizations when they’re applying for a permit for community use of schools. The school is not required to approve an external organization's safety plan. Sports and any other activities taking place within the school should follow the same policies that have been put in place by the school or school board. Refer to more information about COVID-19 safety plans including tools such as a COVID-19 safety plan template.

Outdoor photography

  • Outdoor photography is preferred.
  • Outdoor group photos within a cohort are preferred with at least 2 metres of physical distancing.

Indoor photography

If photography is happening indoors, select a well-ventilated space and follow these recommended measures:

  • Maintain at least 2 metres of physical distancing between the client and photographer at all times.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces that are touched between cohorts.
  • To reduce movement in the room, photographers should organize all equipment and lighting before a client is called in to the room.
  • Photography staff should wear masks and consider wearing eye protection.
  • Clients should keep their masks on until the actual photo shoot.
  • Keep the photography time for each client as short as possible.

Graduation attire

  • Caps and gowns should either be purchased for personal use or washed between uses.
  • Caps or gowns that cannot be washed can be disinfected or quarantined for 72 hours between uses.
  • Consider ways for students to make their own scrolls using a sheet of paper and a ribbon.