The Northwestern Health Unit is working with schools on the new school guidance that they have received from the province by providing support and information and answering any questions that they might have.
Dr. Kit Young-Hoon, medical officer of health for the NWHU, said provincial guidance for schools includes wearing masks from grades 4 to 12.
“This is also a good time to be supporting parents, so one of the key things is parents should be encouraging their children and talking to their children about following public health measures and advice for when they return to school,” Young-Hoon said.
“Encouraging physical distancing, staying two metres apart, following good hand hygiene and using hand sanitizer as appropriate, avoiding touching one's face, sneezing or coughing into ones' sleeve or a tissue you can throw away. Not sharing drinks, not sharing food, avoiding hugging.”
Young-Hoon said during the summer, parents may want to consider encouraging their children to practice wearing masks while they are at home so they are ready when school starts.
The Ontario government said they will be requesting guidance from public health units to the type of class delivery most appropriate in September. They also said the province will be hiring 500 nurses that will be working closely with school boards to make sure health regulations are followed in class.
“The nurses are with the health unit but they work with the schools in implementing some of these policies,” Young-Hoon said. “The NWHU has very strong partnerships with all our school boards. We have staff that work closely with schools including public health nurses, health promoters and health educators.”
However, some parents may have children in grades 3 or less and grades 4 or more. Young-Hoon said it is up to the parents how you want to support their children from grade 3 and younger into wearing a mask while they are at school and having indoor class time.
“The mask policy is only a part of what is required to protect children,” Young-Hoon said. “I think if you have multiple children, you can choose to encourage masks for all your children if you want to. There is no requirement that children should not wear masks in schools, but they are just making it mandatory from grade 4 to 12 for when they have indoor class time recognizing for certain age groups it is going to be harder to wear masks for long periods of time indoors."