The following provides a summary of the overall strategy being put in place to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19.
The HWDSB COVID-19 Cleaning Procedure is based on the Public Health Ontario – Cleaning and Disinfection in Public Settings document. HWDSB uses hospital grade disinfectant cleaner as part of the regular cleaning protocol.
Our emphasis will be on the frequent cleaning of equipment and high touch surfaces, a minimum of twice a day, and regularly beyond that. High touch surfaces may include, but are not limited to:
- accessible push buttons
- hydration stations
- light switches
- toilet and faucet handles
- electronic devices
- eating areas including tables, sinks, and countertops
The use of shared items is being discouraged or cleaned between cohort use. A detailed cleaning and disinfecting protocol has been established for dealing with spaces and equipment should there be a confirmed case of COVID-19 within a school.
The following steps are being taken to accommodate the increased frequency in cleaning:
- school-based caretaking staff shifts will be modified
- community use of school facilities (excluding licensed childcare and before/after school programs) will be suspended until further notice.
- Drinking fountains in all schools will be bagged and not used.
- Hydration stations will be provided for the filling of personal water bottles.
- Plexiglass barriers, similar to those used in other service industries will be installed in school main offices and where needed.
- Portable barriers will be provided should physical distancing and/or other recommended measures are not possible.
- The number of urinals in washrooms will be restricted to allow for appropriate physical distancing and to mitigate the overall time required for additional daily cleaning.
- Sample classrooms have also been established with increased physical distancing between students of approximately 2 metres.
- Should the need arise in an adaptive situation, staff are prepared to reset classrooms in all schools in a manner that will accommodate cohorts of approximately 15 students spaced about 2 metres apart.
- Common areas such as gymnasiums, cafeterias, hallways, entrances, parking lots, and learning commons will also be structured to facilitate physical distancing through the use of temporary barriers, markings (e.g. arrows/circles) and signage.
It is understood that a critical approach to reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission is proper hand hygiene by everyone.
- Schools are being equipped with hand-washing or hand-sanitizing stations in classrooms and other key points throughout the building.
- Where possible, hand-washing is preferred over the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- A process has been established to ensure that an adequate amount of daily hand hygiene product is available to schools and that classroom levels will be maintained through regular monitoring.
- Regularly scheduled hand hygiene breaks will be implemented in an age-appropriate manner across schools including upon entry, before and after any breaks such as nutrition breaks, recess, lunch as well as other times as needed.
- Age-appropriate signage has been created and will be displayed widely within classrooms and around schools (inside/outside) stressing the importance of hand hygiene as well as reminders on how to properly clean one’s hands.
- Staff are developing age-appropriate lessons for the direct teaching and reinforcement of proper hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette (e.g. sneezing into elbow) by everyone.
Cohorting is the process of grouping students to minimize the number of students and staff any individual comes in contact with and to maintain consistency in those contacts as much as possible.
Reducing the number of individuals one interacts with over a prolonged period of time is another key approach to reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission as well as facilitating contact tracing and cleaning should a confirmed infection occur.
- Within a conventional delivery approach (Scenario A) students will be grouped within their assigned classes based on the grade-level/course class size ratios (e.g. 20-23 students in regular grades 1 to 3 classes).
- For an adaptive delivery (Scenario B) students may be further sub-divided into smaller cohorts so as to achieve the recommended physical distancing within the classroom (e.g. 15 students spaced 2 metres apart) and reduce the overall number of students in the school on any given day.
A further strategy is to take the group of 15 and create smaller groups based on transportation or before and after care, thereby providing a “bubble” of children who interact together within the cohort of 15.
Planning is underway to assign students into cohorts with an emphasis on keeping students from the same household within the same cohort (i.e. cohort A or B) where possible, regardless of grade or school, for family planning and transportation.
HWDSB’s Facilities Management has been working with third-party professionals to review the ventilation conditions in all classrooms and school buildings in general.
Advice from Public Health has indicated that a normally operating HVAC system should be sufficient in schools and in isolation spaces.
Routine maintenance including regular filter replacements will be completed. The filters will be changed as per the manufacturer’s instructions or after construction work.
If needed, adjustments will be made where possible and/or alternate learning and common spaces may be designated.
Visual cues and reminders are being created and will be widely displayed in classrooms and throughout school common areas including hallways and washrooms.
Signs will focus on:
- respiratory etiquette
- telling an adult if feeling ill
- physical distancing (including floor markings)
- keeping to the right when walking inside the school (including stairways)
- mask wearing.
Signage is being developed using age appropriate images and language and reflective of the diverse HWDSB community.
Signage on exterior doors will be provided in the 10 common languages spoken by HWDSB families. This will include
- information about symptoms of COVID-19
- access to building
- contact information.
Staff are currently working with the City of Hamilton to align messaging with that provided for childcare.
Access to School Sites
Consistent with current practices for elementary and secondary schools, access to school premises will remain restricted. In order to further enhance public health measures, visitors, including parents/guardians/caregivers, will be directed to wait outside of the school while contacting the main office (by phone or school entrance intercom system) and access to the school building will only be provided when necessary.
Should an individual require access to the school they will be expected to complete an appropriate COVID-19 screening, hand sanitization and, if deemed appropriate, masking along with established sign-in/sign-out protocols. Enhanced cleaning measures of high-touch surfaces will be implemented.
Overall, the goal will be to limit access by non-school specific students and staff as much as possible, including volunteers. To that end, community use of school facilities will be suspended until further notice.
A draft procedure outlining student and staff COVID-19 screening expectations has been developed in consultation with Hamilton Public Health.
Screening for students and staff will have two components:
- An HWDSB document outlining the screening criteria and symptoms that would require a student or staff member to remain at home and/or be required to leave the school along with the necessary steps needed prior to return.
- An individual responsibility to perform the screening on a daily basis and to take the appropriate actions including a notification process.
Parents/guardian/caregivers will be provided with the documentation (with translation available) prior to the start of the school year to confirm that they have read, understood and will abide by the expectations until they are no longer required by HWDSB.
Students will not be allowed to attend school until the confirmation is completed.
All staff will be expected to complete a COVID-19 screening.
Screening for visitors to schools will be conducted in accordance with Hamilton Public Health guidance and in most cases will require individuals to answer key screening questions prior to entry for each visit.
Staff are currently working with Hamilton Public Health, the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board, and the Ministry of Education, to establish consistent protocols in the event of a health concern for a student or staff member that may require they be sent home pending follow-up or a confirmed case of COVID-19.
The protocols will include:
- contact tracing
- possible temporary closure of a school (or part of a school)
- potential need to shift to a different delivery scenario (e.g. from conventional to adaptive or fully remote).
The securing of essential supplies to implement the enhanced public health measures including a minimum of one month’s supply inventory available at all times is a high priority.
Orders have been placed for the months of September and October with at least half or more of the required items already received. This includes:
- cleaning supplies
- hand washing soap
- alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for use by designated staff (in consultation with Hamilton Public Health), including:
- medical grade face masks.
Public Health & Central Joint Health and Safety Committee (CJHSC) Engagement
HWDSB staff will continue to engage regularly with Hamilton Public Health and will ensure that relevant information is shared with union presidents and the board’s CJHSC throughout the summer.