Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022
Chair expresses confidence in management of COVID-19
At last night’s Board meeting, trustees were given an update on COVID-19 processes and plans. They expressed confidence in the way senior administration is managing the pandemic in Near North District School Board (NNDSB).
Superintendent Tim Graves, the board’s COVID-19 lead, provided a fulsome report to trustees on a wide range of topics related to COVID-19 and how the board is managing everything from personal protective equipment (PPE) to reporting tools.
Board Chair Jay Aspin noted, “everyone knows what a hard job it has been, navigating these past two years through a pandemic.”
“On behalf of the board, I am obliged to give a special shout out to all members of our Near North team. With the continually disruptive program changes, this has been a very exasperating experience for all. Whether it’s been the provision of PPE equipment, rapid tests, screening tools, reporting tools or now vaccine clinics you have done an extremely commendable job of keeping our students and staff safe which is always our first priority,” said Chair Aspin. “As well, a sincere shout out to parents and guardians of our students and relatives of staff. Your understanding, patience and support have been exceptional and is much appreciated.”
Trustees heard that the board is working with the North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit which is offering child vaccine clinics. Schools around the district have been the site of clinics, held outside of school hours.
Two new screening tools were discussed; the updated School and Child Care Screening Tool, which clarifies isolation periods and close contacts, and the absence reporting tool which is used by principals when the absenteeism rate is 30 per cent or higher for two consecutive days, when inclement weather and/or bus cancellations are not a factor.
When non-fit-tested N95 masks were sent to NNDSB in early January, there were only enough to last for eight days. Student-facing staff were prioritized, including daycare staff, special education staff and elementary teachers. The full allotment has since been received, and the board has a supply ready for all staff upon request. Additionally, there is an adequate supply of medical masks and three-ply cloth masks for students.
NNDSB has a supply of rapid antigen tests available. Initially, 17,280 tests were distributed to daycares, elementary students and staff; a second allocation was made available for secondary school students and occasional staff. The kits come in packages of 20 tests and are re-kitted and distributed to schools. Testing is voluntary, and people with symptoms who choose not to test are presumed positive and should isolate immediately.
Secondary schools in the board returned to the semester system on Jan. 31. An initial review of data shows students continued to be successful through the octomester model, and the report acknowledged the work of school staff throughout octomesters to supports student success.
The final report item detailed the status of athletics and extracurricular activities at schools. The winter sports season was paused in early winter, but Minister of Education Stephen Lecce announced that certain restrictions could be lifted as of last week. NNDSB works with the health unit and co-terminus boards to develop a local strategy for all aspects of COVID-19 planning; as of yesterday, high-contact/high-intensity sports and music and band activities were able to resume.
Director of Education Craig Myles acknowledged that managing the pandemic throughout the board has been a massive job, requiring coordination with many colleagues in health and education. “Under the leadership of SO Graves, and System Principal of Well-Being Kim Pauli, NNDSB’s COVID-19 management team has guided our staff through another difficult year. Their recommendations have mitigated the risk of COVID-19 to staff and students. I would again like to express my sincere appreciation to all those who have stepped to the plate to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of staff and students, which remains the number one priority in all of our decisions.”
For more information, please contact:
Near North District School Board
P. (705) 472-8170, extension 5010