With in-class learning resuming across the province this week, schools will continue to provide notification of COVID-19 cases based on self-reporting from students and staff. With the announcement that asymptomatic, vaccinated individuals no longer require a confirmatory PCR test following a positive rapid antigen test, schools are updating their process for notifying close contacts of cases, with an aim to ensure that there continues to be timely notification.
“We know that in-class learning is critically important to students’ overall mental and physical health and development,” Education Minister Dustin Duncan said. “That is why the Government of Saskatchewan is supporting all students and staff in finding ways to reduce risk while we learn to live with COVID in our everyday lives. School staff have done a phenomenal job in ensuring our schools remain as safe as possible while continuing to ensure that parents have access to timely information about COVID in our communities.”
Positive COVID-19 test results for school-based staff or students, from either rapid antigen or PCR tests, must be reported to the local school office. The school will then send a notification to parents/guardians of the class and/or bus cohort that may be considered close contacts.
Fully vaccinated students and staff who are close contacts will follow the current process of self-monitoring. They are able to attend school and other activities as long as they remain asymptomatic. Fully vaccinated students and staff who test positive are required to self-isolate for five days.
Students who are close contacts to cases in non-household settings (i.e. at school, daycare, public recreation activities) and not fully vaccinated are able to continue to attend school, take the bus and attend child care as long as they are asymptomatic. They are not permitted to attend any extra-curricular activities for the 10 days self-monitoring period. If the transmission occurred in the household setting, all unvaccinated students are required to isolate for 10 days, including not attending school or childcare. The below flow-chart fully maps out the scenarios for students.
Staff members (teachers, educational assistants, bus drivers, etc.) who are deemed a close contact and not fully vaccinated MUST self-isolate for 10 days following last exposure.
More information on close contacts can be found at saskatchewan.ca/COVID-19.
A template communication is being provided to schools from public health to assist in the family notification process. Schools will also inform their local medical health officers of any suspected outbreaks to ensure that school outbreak information is updated on saskatchewan.ca here at http://www.saskatchewan.ca/government/health-care-administration-and-provider-resources/treatment-procedures-and-guidelines/emerging-public-health-issues/2019-novel-coronavirus/latest-updates/covid-19-cases-in-schools.
In the case of an outbreak in a school, which is defined as three or more cases in a class or cohort of students, public health will continue to investigate and may advise further mitigation measures for either the class or the entire school.
To prevent COVID-19 transmission and serious health outcomes, the Government of Saskatchewan encourages all eligible residents to get vaccinated, including receiving booster doses as soon as you are eligible. Increased cases in the community will result in an increase in cases in schools. However, with a layered approach to preventative measures including continued masking, access to rapid tests, increased sanitation, cohorting, and students and staff staying home when they are sick, schools are providing as safe a learning environment.
School staff continue to have access to disposable, medical grade surgical masks and more than 1.6 million rapid antigen tests have been distributed to families through elementary schools since the federal allocation began arriving in Saskatchewan. Rapid tests will now also be available in high schools with an additional 250,000 rapid tests currently being distributed to schools across the province.
Rapid tests are available for free at over 500 locations throughout the province and a full list is available at saskatchewan.ca.
To further support students’ needs both this school year and going into next school year, the provincial interim education plan will be extended into next year. The interim plan focuses on supports for Kindergarten to Grade 5 reading, mental health and education needs.
We know that students have been affected by the pandemic, so schools will continue to provide supports for students to support both their learning and mental wellness.