Supporting the safe reopening of schools
Experts from McMaster Children’s Hospital, in partnership with other Ontario hospitals, are contributing to the ongoing effort to support the safe reopening of schools as the pandemic continues. Their recommendations are included in the Updated COVID-19: Guidance for School Reopening, which builds on an initial set of recommendations previously put forward by The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and Unity Health Toronto.
Considerations and mitigation strategies
The updated guidance document is based on a collective evaluation of the continually emerging global science around Covid-19 and a review of the experiences from other jurisdictions where schools have already re-opened. Scientific evidence indicates that the risk to staff and students can be kept low if schools adhere to safety measures related to screening, hand hygiene, physical distancing and cohorting when community transmission is low.
The document includes 16 considerations for school re-opening, with adaptations for elementary, middle and high school classes. The document recommends that children and youth return to a daily school model with risk mitigation strategies in place. These strategies include having trained screeners at schools, additional custodian and cleaning staff, additional teachers and support workers, and potential delivery of classes outdoors.
Guidance for a safe and positive return to school
“Our goal is to help children return to school,” says Dr. Jeff Pernica, Medical Director, Pediatric Infectious Disease Service, McMaster Children’s Hospital. “While we don’t know how the pandemic will evolve, we do know that keeping schools closed will have a lasting and negative impact on the developmental and mental well being of kids. That’s why we’re pleased to be able to provide evidence-based recommendations to ensure a safe and positive back-to-school season for all kids.”
Other hospitals that have contributed to and endorsed the guidance document include Unity Health Toronto, London Health Sciences, Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and Kingston General Hospital. The document has also been informed by epidemiologists, public health physicians, child and youth psychiatrists, infectious diseases experts, teachers, parents and children.