C-K students return to in-person learning with added measures in place

·3 min read

Schools across Chatham-Kent will open their doors for in-person learning this week, with added safety measures.

The provincial government has approved a return to in-class learning for students across Chatham-Kent; however, due to the ongoing pandemic, there will be a change to how the school day begins.

Before any students, staff or visitors enter a school, they will have to complete an online COVID-19 screening test. Anyone who doesn’t pass will not be allowed to attend school.

Deb Crawford, Director of Education with the St. Clair Catholic District School Board, said staff and secondary students are going to have to confirm when they arrive at school that they have self-screened using the provincial screening tool.

“I’d like to remind everyone that all people, all students must use the self-screening tool before they go to school in the morning or before they go to work, and if they’re not feeling well, they should not be coming to school,” said Crawford.

Additionally, the province is also requiring students in Grade 1 to 3 to wear a mask, including while on school buses. Students in Grades 1 to 12 will also be required to wear a mask when outdoors when physical distancing cannot be maintained. The Government of Ontario will also provide an additional 3.5 million high-quality standard masks for students to ensure a backup supply is available if needed.

Students will also be discouraged from gathering before and after school.

“Nothing is more important than returning kids to school safely because it is crucial for their development, mental health, and future success,” said Education Minister Stephen Lecce in a media release.

Chatham-Kent Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Colby supports a return to school and is reassuring parents and students that local schools are safe.

Colby said schools are not a significant source of transmission as CK Public Health has only reported three school outbreaks in total since the start of the pandemic. He also said enhanced screening measures are critical.

“We have certainly not seen schools and children in school being a source of infection to others in the community. That was a big worry at the beginning of the pandemic, and I support the back to school move.”

Colby said discussions continue to put in enhanced and rapid testing in schools to help catch cases early.

“The attention to screening, I think, is really the most important enhancement for safety here, and I’ve been very happy with the way the school boards have conducted their approach to the pandemic all the way along,” said Colby.

According to Education Director of the Lambton-Kent District School Board, John Howitt, the use of cohorts will continue. He added there’s an April deadline to switch back to virtual learning.

“We are sticking to the class cohorts and not interacting beyond those cohorts unless we can do it virtually,” said Howitt.

Students have not been in class since before a second provincial lockdown being implemented in late December.

Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News