On January 14, the Chair of the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) sent a letter to the Ontario Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce, in which she outlined the prevalent concerns of the OCDSB for the January 17 return to school that have not, as of yet, been addressed.
In her letter, Scott outlines a number of requests, the first being the need for continued tracking and public reporting of confirmed and suspected COVID-19 cases in schools by local Public Health Units. “Reporting rates
of absenteeism is an imprecise and inadequate proxy for understanding the prevalence of Covid-19 cases in schools,” wrote Lynn Scott.
Scott continued, “Families should not have to rely on uninformative absence reports or on community rumour to determine whether or not a child may have been exposed to COVID19 infection at school, or whether the risk of exposure to COVID-19 at a school exceeds their family risk tolerance in light of other family members who have unique vulnerabilities to the virus.”
To do this, the need for ongoing and access to PCR testing is required.
“Students and staff must have access to PCR testing in instances of high-risk exposure and suspected COVID-19. In addition, our schools need continued funding for and supplies of rapid antigen tests for all students and staff, in support of implementing a “Test to Return” strategy following COVID-19 illness or exposure. The PCR tests should be available to asymptomatic individuals with high-risk exposure as well as to symptomatic individuals with suspected COVID-19 infections,” noted Scott.
The decision to provide non-fitted N-95 masks for teachers and staff is appreciated, “…but we believe that medical masks and non-fit-tested N95 masks should also be provided and funded as an option for students”. She also mentioned that provided masks come in a full range of sizes to ensure optimum effectiveness for both children and adults. It is imperative that these be provided.
In her letter, Scott stated , “As we and other school boards have requested previously, we would like to see a long-term commitment to adequate funding for upgrades to school ventilation systems, beyond providing additional portable HEPA filter units…”
She ended her letter with the Board wants to, “…receive confirmation that additional funding will be provided to cover any COVID-related expenses that cannot be funded through current planned budgets.”
“We are working together to support the return to class with additional layers of protection — millions of rapid tests, 73K HEPA units, N95s, and school-based vax clinics,” tweeted the Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce on January 14.
You can read the complete letter addressed to Minister Stephen Lecce here.