March 9th, 2020
The safety, health and well-being of our students and staff is our top priority. We appreciate that parents and caregivers may have questions about the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) and how this will be managed in schools.
The Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) is actively involved in communication with Region of Waterloo Public Health and with the Office of the Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health. We take guidance on health matters from our federal, provincial and local health authorities, including our local partners.
Over the past week, there has been a significant increase in information about COVID-19. There was one reported case in our region, however, our public health authorities continue to assure us that the risk of infection in our region remains low. At present, school closures are not recommended for the prevention of COVID-19.
At the WRDSB, we are putting in place a number of proactive measures to protect student and staff well-being. This is an evolving situation, and timely and accurate information is critical.
International Field Trips
All school-sponsored field trips are being closely reviewed relative to travel advisories issued by the Government of Canada. At this time, three trips to Europe scheduled for March have been cancelled. For all other planned trips, we are monitoring daily, and additional cancellations are possible. These difficult decisions are being made to protect students and staff from unnecessary risk of exposure and the possibility of quarantine or self-isolation, either overseas or upon their return to Canada.
The WRDSB has been proactive in ordering additional supplies, anticipating the need for hand soap and paper towels in support of handwashing. As part of our regular routine, enhanced cleaning practices are implemented as needed in response to an outbreak in specific areas.
As always, the best precautions people can take is to wash hands, avoid touching your face, and cover your mouth if you cough to reduce the spread of germs. Washing hands with plain soap and water are recommended in schools and childcare settings. This information on hand hygiene and this handwashing poster provide good information for at school and at home.
Supporting and Talking to Children
Concern over this new virus can make children and families anxious. Children look to adults for guidance on how to react to stressful events and need factual, age-appropriate information. Teaching children positive preventive measures, talking with them about their fears, and giving them a sense of some control over their risk of infection can help reduce anxiety.
Here is a resource to help you speak with your child – Talking to Children about Coronavirus.
Families and staff who are travelling overseas for personal travel are encouraged to regularly monitor Government of Canada Travel Advisories. The current areas of most significant concern are China, Northern Italy, Iran, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and South Korea. Please note impacted areas may change and expand as the situation continues to evolve. Please follow Region of Waterloo Public Health advice about who should self-isolate and for how long upon returning to Canada. Continue to monitor the Region of Waterloo Public Health’s site or contact them at 519-575-4608.
It will take a collective effort to minimize the spread of COVID-19. We remain committed to monitoring this situation and keeping you informed.
Visit the WRDSB COVID-19 Information page for additional information.
Message from Region of Waterloo Public Health
Parents are asked to check the Region of Waterloo Public Health Novel Coronavirus website for information on the virus, regular updates, and other tips and resources on how to best prevent the spread of germs.
Parents wanting to stay informed can also monitor the Province of Ontario’s novel coronavirus website, which will be updated every weekday at 10:30 a.m. ET.
The WRDSB will keep district and school websites up to date with the most current information relevant to our schools.
Focus on the facts
Parents are asked to follow official sources for the latest updates on COVID-19.
As a school district, we pride ourselves on our diversity and our commitment to equity. While this virus can be traced to a province in China, it is important that we do not racialize the virus and allow this issue to give rise to discrimination based on fear, perception and stereotypes. At a time like this, we must come together and focus on the facts and recommendations from our health partners about how to mitigate the risk of the spread of this and other viruses.
Reducing the spread of germs
Region of Waterloo Public Health has shared these recommendations to help reduce the spread of germs including the flu and COVID-19:
- Stay home if you are sick;
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer;
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth unless you have just washed your hands;
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your arm, not your hand;
- If you are ill and need to visit a healthcare provider, call ahead or tell them right away when you arrive that you have a respiratory illness and wear a mask while waiting to be seen;
- Avoid visiting people in hospitals or long-term care centres if you are sick; and
- Get your flu shot.
Prevention measures in schools
As this is also flu season, we continue to remind students to follow proper handwashing techniques. Also, signs have been posted around schools as reminders for students, staff and visitors as well.
Cover Your Cough – Clean Your Hands (Region of Waterloo Public Health)
Cleaning is an important part of our prevention strategy. In our schools, we are exercising our usual high standards of cleanliness, with our regular protocols of frequent and thorough cleaning. We are fully staffed to provide a complete cleaning of all facilities, every day. We are especially conscious of this high cleaning standard during flu season, and have dedicated staff performing this important function.
Should students wear masks?
Health professionals do not recommend students wear masks to school. The masks may increase the risk of contracting an illness as they may become contaminated. Healthcare providers dispose of their masks after each patient encounter which reduces the possibility of contamination. Students wearing masks will be asked by staff to remove them.
Students should continue to cover their coughs or sneezes with a tissue or their arm and wash their hands afterwards. Parents are reminded to keep their child home if they are exhibiting signs of illness.
The Government of Canada, Ontario Ministry of Health and Region of Waterloo Public Health continue to provide up-to-date and evidence-based information on their websites so that you have the information you need to make informed decisions about your health. As this is an evolving situation, we continue to remind people of the importance of using credible sources to stay informed, and encourage others to do the same.
- Government of Canada – Novel Coronavirus
- Ontario Ministry of Health
- Region of Waterloo Public Health
- Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health
- Public Health Agency of Canada, 2019 Novel Coronavirus Outbreak update
- Public Health Ontario
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control – 2019 Novel Coronavirus
- World Health Organization – Coronavirus