WC school board trustee concerned with return to school plan

Special to WC Online

WEST CARLETON – Zone 1 Ottawa Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) trustee and board chair Lynn Scottt is working about the province’s return to school plan, and has wrote the minister a letter outlining her concerns.

Scott, who is the trustee representing West Carleton schools, also had a lot of requests.

The Jan. 14 letter to Ontario Minister of Education Stephen Lecce outlines a number of requests, the first being the need for continued tracking and public reporting of confirmed and suspected COVID-19 cases in schools by local public health units. 

“Reporting rates of absenteeism is an imprecise and inadequate proxy for understanding the prevalence of Covid-19 cases in schools,” Scott said. “Families should not have to rely on uninformative absence reports or on community rumour to determine whether or not a child may have been exposed to COVID19 infection at school, or whether the risk of exposure to COVID-19 at a school exceeds their family risk tolerance in light of other family members who have unique vulnerabilities to the virus.”

Scott says access to PCR testing is required and that testing needs to be ongoing.

“Students and staff must have access to PCR testing in instances of high-risk exposure and suspected COVID-19,” Scott said. “In addition, our schools need continued funding for and supplies of rapid antigen tests for all students and staff, in support of implementing a Test to Return strategy following COVID-19 illness or exposure. The PCR tests should be available to asymptomatic individuals with high-risk exposure as well as to symptomatic individuals with suspected COVID-19 infections.”

Scott says the board appreciates the government providing non-fitted N-95 masks for teachers and staff is appreciated “but we believe medical masks and non-fit-tested N95 masks should also be provided and funded as an option for students.”

Scott also mentions provided masks come in a full range of sizes to ensure optimum effectiveness for both children and adults.

“As we and other school boards have requested previously, we would like to see a long-term commitment to adequate funding for upgrades to school ventilation systems, beyond providing additional portable HEPA filter units,” Scott said. “We want to receive confirmation additional funding will be provided to cover any COVID-related expenses that cannot be funded through current planned budgets.”

Students were expected to return to school today (Jan. 17) after Ontario students spent the first two weeks after the Christmas break returning to online learning as part of a provincial lockdown to help deal with the spike of COVID-19 cases brought on by the Omicron variant. Mother Nature had other plans dumping more than 40 centimetres of snow on the ground forcing the board to extend online learning by one day. Students are expected back in school tomorrow (Jan. 18).

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