Pandemic Protocols: A COVID19 Ready Ontario Education System

COVID19 school early in the pandemic –
all that infrastructure not doing anything.
We can do better.

I’ve been reading the never ending speculation driven by an increasing panic on the part of educators as this school year approaches and this Ontario government seems incapable of planning for it.  When the panic rises too high people start making demands for things that we’ve never had, like a guaranteed safe school.  Teachers have been getting ill at schools since schools began, but this isn’t about that, it’s about managing COVID19 to the best of our scientific knowledge.  The point isn’t to aim at the impossible, it’s to put as many reasonable processes in place as possible to protect the people in the system.


This is about secondary (high) school, which might sound odd because no one is talking about high school COVID19 planning, so I thought I’d give it a shot since no one else appears to be.


From my admittedly layman’s point of view there are two sides to COVID19 management.  One is the social responsibility side, which is something people seem to be struggling with.  The other is monitoring and response.  For me, if the system were to spin up in September following these rules, I think we could get things working as well as possible under the circumstances.




INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY COVID19 MANAGEMENT

  • If your child had been in contact with anyone infected they should be withdrawn from school for two weeks in quarantine.  During this time they are expected to keep up with class work remotely unless they have severe symptoms, in which case a doctor’s note can release them from school work
  • Any child who is screened and discovered to have COVID19 is isolated at school and sent home at the earliest possible opportunity with minimal contact with others.  All schools have an isolated space reserved for this possibility
  • Testing will focus on students and staff who were in contact with any infected person
  • If an outbreak occurs (an outbreak is any traced transmission occurring at a school), the building is to quarantine/close for a period of 1 week during which time instruction will go online
  • Staff and students are to wear PPE when in close proximity to each other.  When social distancing is possible it is the preferred method of management.
  • Any staff or student who does not follow PPE protocols is to be removed from interaction and re-trained
  • All staff are trained in PPE expectations prior to the beginning of school
  • All students are to be trained in PPE usage prior to beginning instruction
  • Heightened cleaning regimes are to be followed in all classrooms, especially focusing on shared work spaces and technology.  All will be sanitized at the end of each period
  • Classes will be quad-mestered to reduce traffic, but secondary schools will be open all day on a regular schedule
  • Lunches are to take place in quad-mestered classes
  • Strict hall-pass protocols are to be in place to minimize wandering and out of class interaction
  • No student has locker access during pandemic protocols
  • Students will be required to wear masks while bussing, but normal bussing loads will occur
  • Students will be trained to minimize physical contact while bussing or transitioning between classes
  • Any student who does not comply with COVID19 safety training will be re-trained
  • Students or families unwilling to comply with pandemic safety requirements are to be withdrawn from physical schooling if re-training proves ineffective and offered remote learning options with credible expectations and work required or credits will not be granted
SYSTEM MONITORING & RESPONSE
  • All staff and students will be subject to random temperature tests
  • Any staff or student who show fever will be spot tested for COVID19
  • If COVID19 is found to be present, the staff or student with it are to be immediately isolated from the school population and sent home for a minimum of 2 weeks quarantine (remote learning is expected to continue unless symptoms are severe)
  • If COVID19 is found through tracing to be transmitting between people in a school then an outbreak shall be declared and the school shall be closed and quarantined for one week and all shared surfaces disinfected.  During a school quarantine class work is expected to continue remotely
  • Upon return all staff and students will be tested for fever and any found will be tested for COVID19
  • Random spot checks for COVID19 testing will continue
  • School boards are responsible for putting testing procedures in place at every location that ensure a minimum of 10% of the school population will be tested for COVID19 each term
  • Any classroom which is so over full that it causes repeated closures is to be reassessed (and really should never happened in the first place because learning in such terrible conditions should never have happened to begin with), and reorganized to be more medically and pedagogically sound
TEACHING PRACTICE MODIFICATION
  • Teachers are to provide all in-class material online
  • Where possible teachers are not to provide material on physical mediums (like paper) which can transmit the virus
  • All teachers are provided with technology that allows them to video any instruction which are then to be shared in online classrooms for any students unable to attend
  • Teachers are encouraged to use blended learning strategies that leverage remote learning systems even when face to face
  • Any shared workspaces or technology must be cleaned at the end of each class
  • Remote learning outcomes are to be assessed using the same criteria as in-class learning outcomes
There are countries in the world who have proven that with appropriate individual responsibility, access to cleaning and personal protective equipment and with regular monitoring and rapid response, COVID19 can be managed effectively.  If we’re going to argue that education is a vital service to society then we need to provide access to schooling to as many students as possible in as safe and transparently monitored an environment as possible.  This suggestion emphasizes the importance of social engineering in managing the virus individually while also making it clear what system responsibilities are in responding to an outbreak.  Instead of being paralyzed by this pandemic we should be applying these practical and effective solutions to managing it.

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