P.E.I. released its back-to-school plan on Monday, aiming to give students and staff a “near-normal” experience in the second autumn of the COVID-19 pandemic but recommending some mask-wearing when schools reopen.

“It is our goal to have Island children return to school, under as normal conditions as possible, for a full year of in-class learning,” Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison said in statement.

The plan, posted to the government website, offers guidance that changes depending on whether the Island is in a “low risk” or “elevated risk” scenario when it comes to COVID-19 transmission.

“Provided the epidemiology remains consistent, it is expected that all Island schools will begin in September in a low-risk scenario with enhanced mask protocols,” the plan says.

“Should the situation change, school operational plans similar to those used during the last school year may be enacted.”

Mask measures

The Chief Public Health Office recommends some enhanced mask measures remain in place until at least October, with masks recommended:

For anybody moving through school buildings (not seated in classrooms). For staff in classrooms in grades kindergarten to 6. For anyone on school buses.

Those rules are required due to the delta variant and lack of approved vaccines for younger children, the province said in a news release. 

In general, masks are “strongly recommended” for the unvaccinated as well as for staff who work with students who are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 whenever physical distancing is not possible, regardless of those employees’ vaccination status.

Masks are not required, but everyone who wants to wear one should be supported, the plan says.

Gathering, cohorting

Neither cohorting nor physical distancing is required, though the latter is encouraged in indoor common spaces outside the classroom. Buses can return to normal occupancy.

Gatherings and school sport activities must follow current community public health measures: gathering limits of 200 outdoors; 100 if the activity includes close contact; and 100 indoors.

The plan also recommends proper hand hygiene, regular cleaning and disinfection of surfaces, and improvements to ventilation where needed.

Contact tracing after a positive case will continue.

Cohorting, physical distancing and further masking recommendations could all return if the province ends up in a state of “elevated risk,” the plan warns. The plan doesn’t detail a specific case load or other statistic that might trigger the stricter rules.

P.E.I. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison, pictured Aug. 10, has often said she hopes students will have a more normal school year in 2021-22. (CBC) Staffing, curriculum

The document does say: “We anticipate a near-normal school year for the 2021-2022 school year.”

The plan also highlights that the province had previously announced hiring to support the “physical and mental well-being” of employees, with the extra staff commitment broken down like this:

50 teachers. 34 education assistants. 15 school counsellors. 14 youth service workers. 4 autism consultants. 21 bus drivers. 44 cleaners. 19 administrative support personnel.

The plan says education authorities will work with the Chief Public Health Office and Health P.E.I. to develop pop-up immunization clinics in schools as necessary. Students aged five to 11 will be encouraged to be vaccinated when government approval comes for those ages.

As for the curriculum, the province says it will be a mix of pre-pandemic and mid-pandemic learning.

And while its remote learning plan went largely unneeded last year, it is being updated and will be available “in the coming weeks.”

The general back-to-school plan says there are “alternative education plans (online learning) for those individuals who are at higher risk of COVID-19 and are not attending in person.”

Other back-to-school plans in Atlantic Canada:

After reporting almost no COVID-19 cases in June and July, Prince Edward Island has maintained a single-digit active case load in August.

Three new cases related to travel were confirmed on Saturday, bringing the province’s overall case count to 224.

The plan was released by the Department of Education and Lifelong Learning, in partnership with the Public Schools Branch and La Commission scolaire de langue français, based on Chief Public Health Office guidelines.

The province says P.E.I. is the only jurisdiction in Canada that has maintained in-class learning throughout the pandemic.

More from CBC P.E.I.:

Source From CBC News

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