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.
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
- Students in grades 1 and up will be required to wear face coverings while indoors.
- Children in grade SK and under will be encouraged to wear masks indoors.
- 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.
- Schools have a duty to report confirmed cases under the Health Protection and Promotion Act. The centre must contact their local Public Health Unit to report a child or staff member suspected to have COVID-19.
- 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.
- Toronto and Region Conservation Authority’s (TRCA) health and safety specialist or designate will contact the local Public Health Unit for further steps and direction regarding contacting, testing, and isolation of close contacts.
- Regular school and program functions can continue unless directed otherwise by the local Public Health Unit.
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 must isolate for 14 days.
- Those who test positive for COVID-19 must be excluded from the school or program for 14 days after the onset of symptoms, until clearance has been received from the local Public Health Unit to return.
CONFIRMED CASES OF COVID-19
This section applies to a student, staff member, or a member of the school community who is regularly in the school, who informs the school that they have tested positive for COVID-19.
- Any individual who tests positive for COVID-19 should not attend school until they are cleared by their local Public Health Unit or health care provider.
- Any individual who tests positive must remain in isolation for 14 days. Retesting is not recommended and will not alter this 14-day isolation requirement.
- Every individual who has tested positive for COVID-19 is contacted by their local Public Health Unit for further follow-up.
- The local Public Health Unit will notify the school of a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. In some cases, the local Public Health Unit may not be the same local Public Health Unit as the school; in these circumstances, coordination between the Public Health Units and the school is required for further direction. Having designated points of contact within the school and the Public Health Unit can assist with ensuring clear processes for communication are in place.
- Where the local Public Health Unit determines there was a transmission risk to others in the school, students and staff will be assessed to determine if they were at high risk of exposure (requiring isolation) or if they were at low risk of exposure (can self-monitor for symptoms and return to school).
- Classroom cohorts (students and staff affiliated with the cohort) will generally be considered at high risk of exposure.
- All students and staff determined to be at high risk of exposure will be directed to isolate and recommended to be tested (voluntary testing) within their isolation period.
- Negative test results do not change the requirement for isolation, nor do they shorten the isolation period for close contact.
- Household members and others who live with the individual who has tested positive should isolate for 14 days.
- Students who have to stay home due to isolation will be offered activities and lessons to support continuity of their education.
COVID-19 CASES OUTSIDE OF THE NATURE SCHOOL
This section applies to individuals closely related to a school community, such as parents or members of a student’s or staff member’s household, who test positive for COVID-19 outside of the school.
Situations will arise where students, staff, or teachers may be exposed to COVID-19 outside of the school environment (for example, to family members who don’t attend the school, or social contacts outside of school).
- Household members and others who live with the individual who has tested positive must isolate for 14 days.
- Students who have to stay home due to isolation will be offered activities and lessons to support continuity of their education.
- The local Public Health Unit will provide direction to the school principal on the actions to be taken with the school, depending on the circumstances of the positive COVID-19 case.
- All household contacts of symptomatic individuals are required to quarantine. Therefore, any child enrolled in any program, any student, or any staff with a member of their household who has new or worsening symptoms of COVID-19 must stay at home.
- All asymptomatic household contacts of symptomatic individuals are required to quarantine until the symptomatic household member receives a negative COVID-19 test result or receives an alternative diagnosis by a health care professional.
- If the symptomatic individual tests positive or is not tested and does not receive an alternative diagnosis from a health care professional, the symptomatic individual must isolate (including from household members) for 10 days from onset, and all household contacts must isolate until 14 days from their last contact with the symptomatic individual.
Parents, students, and staff have an understandable interest in knowing when a COVID-19 positive case has been identified in their school.
- A COVID-19 advisory section has been created on The Nature School webpage.
- If there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 that involves a student or a staff member in a school setting, information regarding next steps will be posted on the website as well as emailed to the parent/guardian.
- In the interest of privacy, information provided to school communities will not identify the student or staff member who has received a positive COVID-19 test.
- 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: