HALIFAX: The provincial Minister of Education announced Dec. 28 that the Christmas holiday break will be extended for thousands of students across the province to Jan. 10, 2022.
Minister Becky Druhan said while students won’t return until then, teachers and other school staff returning Tuesday, January 4.
The extended break allows families to monitor students for COVID-19 symptoms before they return to school. It also allows more time for schools to ensure they have enhanced public health measures in place.
“We know that the best place for students is in school where they have continued access to learning and the supports and services they need for their emotional and mental well-being,” said Druhan, “To support the safety of staff and students, and to support public health efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 to protect those who are more vulnerable for severe disease and our healthcare system, we are introducing additional public health measures.”
High case numbers driven by the Omicron variant of COVID-19 have led to changes in Nova Scotia’s approach to testing and case management. Public Health is focusing its efforts on those at highest risk of severe disease and hospitalization.
Those not considered high risk are being asked to test at home and self-manage their case, including contacting all close contacts. This approach will be extended to schools.
Public Health will no longer contact trace in school settings. Students who are sick or who are close contacts of a known case should stay home and follow public health guidance that is available online.
Information about testing, self-isolation and case management is available at: https://www.nshealth.ca/coronavirus .
“We’re at the peak of the most significant wave that we’ve seen yet and it’s impacting how we manage and respond to COVID-19,” said Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer of Health. “We’ve already changed our approach to case management and testing to focus on those at highest risk of severe disease and hospitalization. We’re extending this method to schools as COVID-19 is generally a mild disease for children.
“We need to balance the risk of spread in schools with the significant harms that come from not being in school and learning at home. Schools will have layers of protection in place that will help minimize spread and keep students and staff safe in school.”
Stronger public health measures will be introduced to all of Nova Scotia’s public schools. This will include measures to control the movement of students and mixing of groups to minimize the spread of the Omicron variant. This will include:
— strict cohorting
— no large assemblies, gatherings or events
— no non-essential visitors
— reminding families to keep students home when they’re sick
— proper mask wearing
— continuation of regular hand hygiene and enhanced cleaning
All students will be advised to wear the 3-ply cloth masks that were distributed at the start of the school year, or an equivalent. More 3-ply masks have been ordered and all staff and students will each receive an additional 3-ply mask. One and two-ply masks do not offer sufficient protection.
Masks will continue to be required at all times indoors, except while eating and drinking.
A plan to distribute more rapid tests to students is based on supply availability from the Federal Government.
Schools will share more information with families about enhanced measures the week of January 4.
— school sports will follow the community rules for sports. Information is available online at: https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus/restrictions-and-guidance/#gatherings
— school staff will report to work on January 4 to prepare for the return of students, refresh COVID-19 safety training and professional development
— learning centres will open on January 4, or January 5 in Chignecto-Central Regional Centre for Education, for students whose needs are met through learning centres and require additional support
Nova Scotians can find accurate, up-to-date information, handwashing posters and fact sheets at: https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus
Information on provincewide restrictions that took effect on December 22, and other public health measures to help slow the spread of COVID-19 is available at: https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus/restrictions-and-guidance/