Windsor-Essex public school board brings in new ventilation, safety protocols

·3 min read
Talbot Trail Public School is one of the many schools within the GECDSB requiring COVID-19 self-assessments for students, staff, parents and visitors before entering the building. (Dale Molner/CBC - image credit)
Talbot Trail Public School is one of the many schools within the GECDSB requiring COVID-19 self-assessments for students, staff, parents and visitors before entering the building. (Dale Molner/CBC - image credit)

In preparation for in-person learning, schools under the Greater Essex County District School Board (GECDSB) are implementing additional layers of safety protocols this year.

Beginning Tuesday, Sept. 7, staff, students, parents and visitors will be required to do an online self-assessment, located on the GECDSB website, before entering the school, however a paper option will be provided at the school as well.

"Everybody has to do a self-assessment before coming to school," said Tim Lauzon, health and safety officer for the school board.

This year, schools within the GECDSB will be close to 90 per cent full. Some of the protocols that were in place last year, such as hand sanitizing and capacity limits to rooms will continue into this year, however there are additional measures such as prohibiting porous materials such as plush toys.

"You can now share materials as long as you focus on hand hygiene, etiquette and respiratory etiquette, as well as washing and disinfecting," Lauzon said.

Extracurricular activities and sports will be allowed this year, but are currently delayed until at least October, based on a recommendation made by the public health unit.

"We're just easing into the school year very slowly. We still want staff meetings to be done virtually. We still want assemblies to be virtual," he said.

Dale Molnar/CBC
Dale Molnar/CBC

'Easing into the school year'

In terms of vaccination status, Lauzon said he is waiting for a vaccination policy to be distributed by the Ministry of Education. Both boards want the province to make vaccinations mandatory for those who can. CBC News has contacted Education Minister Stephen Lecce for comment.

Mike Baker, principal of Talbot Trail Public School, said masks will be worn by all students, regardless of vaccine status.

"So we're not differentiating at this point between vaccinated and unvaccinated. We are trying to keep the school as safe as possible for everybody," Baker said.

Several schools across the school board have had enhancements done to the filtration system.

Last year, approximately 380 High Efficiency Particulate Arrestance (HEPA) filters were purchased and distributed among the school boards, Lauzon said.

"We had to go through and assess all of our school buildings with respect to mechanical ventilation systems, passive exhaust, all your different varieties based on building phases. And we're happy to report that is now available information to the general public," he said.

In addition, the HEPA units have been allocated to rooms with passive ventilation and non-mechanical ventilation.

"These are great stand alone units that help filter the air in the room," he said.

Ayon Matlob, a father of two children, said he has no concerns about the school protocols.

"I mean, they had them do an orientation day. So we went to school. They showed them around the classes you played at the gym and everything. So they pretty much got them ready," Matlob said.

"They said they're going to wear masks and they have precautions and procedures. They should be OK."

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