The plan released Monday by the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District, and guided by public health measures, outlines details on mask-wearing, busing, extracurricular activities and more.
Here, we look at several other issues addressed by NLESD CEO Tony Stack and the province's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Janice Fitzgerald.
What happens if a student tests positive for COVID-19?
Janice Fitzgerald: If we do have a child who tests positive for COVID-19 there will be protocols in place for public health to do contract tracing. So any children who are identified as a close contact of that case will be notified, and then those people will have to self-isolate and testing will be recommended for those people as well. How that translates into every single classroom, obviously that's not something you can broadly make a statement about. It's going to be a very contextualized thing. For the most part, if we have a child in a cohorted classroom who does test positive, then the children in that classroom will be tested and quarantined.
What are you doing to ensure schools are better ventilated?
Tony Stack: In brief, the natural ventilation policy is very simply, opening windows and opening them to the degree possible. There are some other settings on HVAC, in our schools that have HVAC, but many do not, that can be increased to allow for more ventilation.
Terry Hall (NLESD assistant director of education): Short and sweet, it's exactly what you said. Opening windows, pre-when class starts, during breaks, lunch, recess … and the door, allows fresh air to flow through. Even in times when there might be some inclement weather, we have had great success in even opening a window even an inch and leaving it there, so there is no interruption to class and no weather getting in has proven very effective. And this policy has been around a long, long time because a lot of our school structures don't have mechanical ventilation …. In the winter, it's not always possible. But even at certain times during the day … even an inch has proven to be extremely effective. And in the absence of even being able to open a window, even just opening the door itself allows air to come in and out, and flow so it doesn't get stagnant in the classroom itself.
Will substitute teachers work at only one school?
Tony Stack: We are looking at substitute teachers. We are looking at data from previous years as to the substitute teacher usage. We are exploring options around that that will give us some ability to be flexible with respect to substitute teachers. That's one of those things that will flow in the coming weeks and we are in discussions with the Department of Education and the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers's Association in that respect.
Can you explain the daily COVID-19 screening checklist?
Tony Stack: In an ideal scenario, a parent would have it, put it on the fridge and make sure you go through that checklist every day. Obviously as we get into the routines, you're going to know what that checklist is. On the front end, initially, it might be a good practice for parents to go through the exercise with their children.
Janice Fitzgerald: At this point, it would be the expectation that parents would do this screening tool on a daily basis and staff as well, to ensure that they don't meet any of the criteria on the tool. If they don't then it's safe to come to school. … it's in nobody's interest to go through this, through the form, and to not be forthcoming about any risk factors that may be there. We all have a responsibility to keep our schools safe.
Questions originated from Monday's media availability and from various reporters and news outlets, and like the responses, have been edited for clarity and length.