Ottawa Public Health going 'school-by-school' to check on COVID-19 set-up: Dr. Etches
OTTAWA -- Three weeks before students return to class, Ottawa Public Health plans to go school-to-school to check on preparations for back to school during the COVID-19 pandemic.
And Ottawa's medical officer of health says her two children will be in class on the first day of school Sept. 3.
The Ottawa Carleton District School Board, the Ottawa Catholic School Board and the Conseil des ecoles catholiques du Centre-Est have released the return to school and health and safety plans for September.
"What we know is that it's very important as a community to have the option to have our children in school, in-person and so we're working as hard as we can with the school boards to make that as safe as possible," said Dr. Vera Etches during an interview on CTV Morning Live Thursday morning.
"We're still exploring all of the details with them. We're going to be going school-by-school to look at all of the set-up."
The health and safety plans for schools include physical distancing, floor markings, hand-hygiene measures and enhanced cleaning. The Ontario Government has said face masks will be mandatory for children in Grades 4 to 12.
Dr. Etches told CTV Morning Live host Leslie Roberts that preparations for back to school begin at home immediately.
"Certainly, the things we want to see are beginning outside of the classroom. I have heard parents wonder 'why do they need to do their part and try to social distance right now when their kids are going to be mixing soon?' It is actually parents that are usually the source of infection for their children and then that will bring it into the schools," said Dr. Etches.
"So starting at home, building those good practices of keeping distance from others and then making sure there's very good screening to keep children out of school if they're sick."
The medical officer of health acknowledges this is a "stressful time" for families trying to decide what is best for them and their kids during a pandemic.
"There's many factors: people need to be at work; people have children with health conditions; some children need the special education in school. It is trying to weigh these different variables."
Earlier this week, Dr. Etches told reporters "I am sure we will see a case of COVID in school."
CTV Morning Live host Leslie Roberts ask Dr. Etches if she will be sending her children back to class in three weeks or enrolling in online learning.
"I am sending my children back to school. In our family, my two children are healthy. I'm working long hours and my partner also needs to work, so they're going back to their regular public school."
School bus safety
The Ottawa Student Transportation Authority has unveiled its plans for school buses, including encouraging physical distancing, assigned seating and having siblings sit together. Students will be asked to sanitize their hands before boarding the bus and face masks will be strongly recommended for everyone.
Dr. Etches tells CTV Morning Live that Ottawa Public Health is still reviewing the plan and speaking with authorities.
"We are in conversations about the plan; we'd like to see as much spacing out as we can on the buses. We also know that the assigned seating will be important," said Dr. Etches.
"The virus spreads within close distance and so making sure we know who to follow up with it if there is a situation where we need to do that. Keeping siblings together, classmates together, all of those things will help."