Horizon students to be grouped into cohorts, required to mask when dealing with different cohorts

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Students, staff and visitors in the Horizon School Division will be required to wear masks outside of their cohorts in common areas as well as in buses for the 2021-22 school year.

A student’s assigned class will be considered their cohort.

The recommendation comes with the Horizon School Division’s adoption of the Ministry of Education’s provincial Safe School plan, which is providing consistent guidance on how the upcoming school year will look throughout the province.

Within this plan, the division will begin the 2021-22 school year at “Level 1.”

Kevin Garinger, Horizon’s director of education, said the level and the associated restrictions may be raised should cases increase in schools or significant community outbreaks occur.

“We know that cohorting was a positive thing,” Garinger said. “If we can’t do that, whatever the reason is, we’ll need masking in those public areas – but outside of that if we can keep children in their cohorts we allow for the opportunity to limit the masking.”

Under Level 1, students, staff, and visitors who feel ill or have any symptoms of COVID-19 are required to stay home.

Before coming to school each day, families are asked to help their child conduct a COVID-19 self-monitoring checklist to determine whether they can attend or should stay home, and staff must complete a COVID-19 self-monitoring checklist before entering their facility.

The checklist includes fever; cough; headache; muscle and/or joint aches and pains; sore throat; chills; runny nose; nasal congestion; conjunctivitis; dizziness; fatigue;nausea/vomiting; diarrhea; loss of appetite (difficulty feeding for children); altered sense of taste or smell; shortness of breath; or difficulty breathing.

Within the schools, masking is required in common areas when cohorts are not able to be maintained. Common area spaces include hallways, washrooms, lunch rooms, and libraries.

Masks are mandatory on buses as well as other modes of school transportation for all students, staff, and visitors.

Once students are seated in their classrooms, the division said it is appropriate to remove masks as masking is encouraged in these environments but not required. This is subject to change based on the level of concern in the school or community.

Physical contact will be minimized and physical distancing of one metre will be maintained where possible. Sanitization of surfaces and equipment will continue. Proper hand hygiene will be promoted and is expected to be followed.

For outdoor activities such as recess or outdoor gym classes, there is no recommendation for students to mask at this time.

Schools will group Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 6 students together in cohorts as a safety strategy, since children under 12 are currently not eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations, while schools will keep Grade 7 to Grade 12 students in no more than three student groupings for instruction.

Educational trips, noon period clubs and intramural sports will be allowed to occur within designated cohorts.

School visitors are required to complete the COVID-19 access screening tool prior to entry.

Jessica R. Durling, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Humboldt Journal

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