The Nature School:
COVID-19 PARENT MANUAL
PLEASE NOTE: Advice of the local Public Health Unit must be followed, even in the event that it contradicts this guidance document.
Updated January 14, 2022
COVID-19 Operational Guidance for The Nature School
and Associated Programs
There are several strategies to keep schools and programs healthy and safe for students, participants, and staff. These include:
- Proper hand hygiene
- Wearing face masks or coverings where appropriate
- Adapted school and program environments such as cohorting, physical distancing, and limiting visitors in indoor spaces.
Relationships between program providers, schools, and local Public Health Units will continue to be crucial to navigate the complex and evolving COVID-19 environment, planning and re-opening schools, and addressing other health issues that emerge.
There may be regional differences in these protocols, but given the different impact of COVID-19 in different communities, it is important to follow the advice of local public health officials to keep children and families safe in their respective communities.
General Transmission Reduction Strategies
- All students will be required to wear face coverings while indoors, unless they have an exemption.
- Students are not required to wear masks outdoors, but distancing will be encouraged.
- Medical masks (surgical/procedural) are required to be worn by school staff outdoors if two metres of distance from others cannot be maintained.
- Eye protection is also required if a staff member comes within two metres of an unmasked individual both indoors and outdoors, as per occupational health and safety requirements.
- All individuals, including staff, families, children and caregivers are to be screened upon arrival using the screening tool recommended by your local Public Health Department or the Ontario Ministry of Health.
- Staff conducting the screening should take appropriate precautions when screening, including maintaining a distance of two meters (six feet) from those being screened.
- Standalone high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter units have been placed in all Nature School classrooms within the Kortright Visitor’s Centre and the Claireville Education Centre.
PARENT DROP-OFF AND PICK-UP ROUTINES
- Parents are to plan for drop-off and pick-up to take more time than usual, to allow for the COVID-19 screening process (for them and their child/children). Screening will occur outside, except in the event of inclement weather, upon which it will happen inside the reception area of the Visitor Centre at Kortright or the Education Centre at Claireville.
- In the event of indoor programming due to inclement weather, signage will be used to direct parents to an indoor drop-off area inside the Visitor Centre at Kortright or the Education Centre at Claireville. Students will be escorted by a staff member into the student learning area at the beginning of the day, and to the designated pick-up area at the end of the day.
- As much as possible, have the same adult drop off and pick up each day. This will reduce the number of adults who come in contact with staff members.
- If possible, signage/markings will be used to guide families through the entry process to assist with physical distancing.
- Hand sanitizer and/or a handwashing station will be located in the student drop-off/pick-up area of The Nature School, and following screening students will be required to wash or sanitize their hands.
- As much as possible, parents will not go past the screening area during drop-off/pick-up, and should leave the area promptly following the screening and promptly after arriving to pick up their child to promote physical distancing.
- The child’s attendance and COVID-19 screening answers for the parent and child will be recorded on the classroom attendance list by the student’s teacher, educator, principal, or other designated school staff.
- All entrances should have hand sanitizer, and if physical distancing of two meters cannot be maintained, parents/guardians, students in grade 1 and up, and staff will require the use of face coverings.
- Personal items should be miniimized, and if brought should be labeled and kept in the space designated for your child’s belongings.
- Children will remain in a daily cohort of a maximum of 12 children for preschool and a maximum of 10 students for primary school. A cohort is defined as a group of children who stay together throughout the duration of the day and the entire length of the school program (September to June). Each cohort must stay together throughout the day and are not permitted to mix with other cohorts indoors. Outdoors, cohorts are encouraged to stay apart if possible. Staff are not included in this number but should still be considered part of the cohort that stays together. Maximum capacity rules do not apply to educators, teachers, principals or students with special needs who require a special needs resource staff on site. Where possible, staff are assigned to a specific group.
- Non-essential visitors will not be permitted access to The Nature School learning areas during school hours during the pandemic.
- Students on field placement should be assigned to a specific group so as to limit interaction with multiple groups of children.
- Children should wash their hands with soap and warm water frequently, and MUST wash their hands in the following situations:
- When they arrive and before they go home
- Before and after eating and drinking
- Before and after handling animals
- Before and after sensory play activities or items that may have had communal use
- After using the toilet
- Before coming inside the facility
- After handling shared toys/items
- After sneezing or coughing into hands
- After wiping their nose independently
- Whenever in doubt
- When handwashing is not possible, a hand sanitizer containing 60% or more alcohol content must be used.
- Staff must provide instruction to students on proper handwashing procedures, supervise students while handwashing, and provide assistance where necessary.
Steps for Proper Handwashing
To be shown to all students individually
- Wet hands
- Apply soap and lather for at least 20 seconds
- Rub up to wrists, between fingers, back of hands, fingertips, under nails, including thumbs
- Rinse well under running water
- Dry hands well with paper towel or hot air blower
- Turn taps off with paper towel, if available
Steps for Using Hand Sanitizer
When hands are NOT visibly soiled, the following steps must be used for cleaning hands using hand sanitizer:
- Apply hand sanitizer (at least 60 –90% alcohol-based)
- Rub hands together for at least 15 seconds
- Work sanitizer between fingers, up to wrists, back of hands, fingertips, and under nails
- Rub hands until dry
Hand sanitizer must only be used on children who are over two years of age, and must always be used under staff supervision. Staff must ensure that the product has completely evaporated from the child’s hands before the child can continue their activity.
Suspected Cases, Confirmed Cases, or Symptoms of COVID-19
- Students should be made aware, in age-appropriate and non-stigmatizing language, how to identify symptoms of COVID-19, and should be instructed to speak to a staff member immediately if they feel ill.
- If a student reports feeling or is exhibiting signs of COVID-19, they are to be immediately separated from the group (without stigmatizing or singling them out) in a supervised area outdoors until they can be picked up by an authorized family member (per the authorized pick-up list). A distance of two metres (six feet) between the supervising staff and ill student should be maintained as much as possible. In the event of inclement weather, the ill student will be brought inside to a separate room.
- If the student suspected of developing symptoms of COVID-19 has a sibling in the school or program, the sibling is also to be isolated and picked up by the parent/guardian at the same time as the ill student.
- The parent/guardian of the child will be contacted and will need to pick up their child(ren) as soon as possible but not in a time that would exceed one hour.
- The parent/guardian will be advised to seek medical advice, in alignment with current local Public Health Unit direction.
- We will follow Ministry of Education guidelines to provide Rapid Tests to students who need them.
WHAT TO DO NEXT
- Children and staff who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 must be excluded from school and should contact their local Public Health Unit or consult the current Ministry of Health screening tool to determine their next steps.
- While an individual suspected to have COVID-19 is waiting for test results, they must remain in isolation and cannot attend school in person.
- Individuals who have travelled outside of Canada should consult the school screening tool for next steps.
- Those who test positive for COVID-19 must be excluded from the school or program and should consult the school screening tool or Public Health for next steps.
CONFIRMED OR PRESUMED CASES OF COVID-19
This section applies to students, staff members, or members of the school community (including parents/guardians) who are regularly in the school and who have tested positive for COVID-19 or have a presumed case as per the screening guidelines.
- Individuals should not attend school until they are cleared by their local Public Health Unit or health care provider.
- Individuals must remain in isolation and consult the school screening tool or local public Health Unit for next steps.
- Household members and others who live with the individual should isolate as per current public health guidelines.
- Students who have to stay home due to isolation will be offered activities and lessons to support continuity of their education.
- A COVID-19 advisory section has been created on The Nature School webpage.
- Public health units will no longer be dismissing cohorts. Given the widespread transmission and inability to test all symptomatic individuals, schools will not be routinely notifying students/pupils in classes with a positive case, or if a child/student or staff is absent due to symptoms associated with COVID-19.
- In the event that The Nature School has 30% absenteeism or more, Public Health will be notified and any actions that need to be taken will be communicated with parents.
- If public health advises that a class, cohort, or a school should be closed for a period of time, parents, students, and staff will be notified immediately.
The following documents were consulted in the preparation of this manual: