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APSEA Field-Based Guidelines – Living with Covid

2021-2022

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Table of Contents

Introduction

The well-being, health, and safety of children, youth and employees are top priorities for the Atlantic Provinces Special Education Authority (APSEA) as schools across the Atlantic region open in September 2021.

This document presents APSEA’s expectations and standards for the safe operation of provincial services during the Covid-19 pandemic. This document has been based upon the directives and plans outlined by Departments of Education and Early Childhood Development/Lifelong Learning of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

APSEA is working collaboratively with provincial departments, school districts/regions/boards and schools to support students and school teams. Continued focus will be placed on ensuring consistent and transparent communication and a commitment to continued support and services for the children and youth, school teams and families with whom APSEA works.

This document provides guidance for APSEA employees while allowing for some local flexibility, recognizing that each school and student plan is individualized.

APSEA services in schools, early learning centres/daycares, and homes may vary across the provinces, regions/districts/boards, and dependent upon the local Covid-19 status.

This document includes core public health measures, as well as temporary enhanced public health measures, which may be applied or rescinded situationally, such as in the event of increasing community transmission of Covid-19 or outbreaks.

The three main priorities informing the guidelines are:

  • Maintaining a healthy and safe environment for all children and youth, families, and employees
  • Reducing the risk of transmission of Covid-19
  • Supporting all children and youth who are blind or visually impaired and/or Deaf or hard of hearing by providing continuity of educational opportunities.

Key Health Information to Minimize Risks

There are measures that APSEA employees can take to reduce the risk of transmission of respiratory illnesses, including Covid-19. Such measures include, but are not limited to, physical distancing, hand hygiene and use of masks, respiratory etiquette, increased frequency of cleaning and disinfection and having employees stay home when ill. These are important steps that can support the health and wellness of students, employees and communities.

Physical Distancing

Physical distancing (2 metre spacing) is a useful public health measure to help prevent the spread of disease; however, in a controlled school environment, where 2 metres is not possible between desks in assigned workspaces, the greatest possible spacing is recommended. Choose to be outdoors as much as possible and utilize available space to spread out to minimize congestion and allow for physical distancing.

Hand and Respiratory Hygiene

Employees must disinfect their hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. This should be done:

  • On arrival
  • Before and after meals
  • After using the toilet
  • After blowing nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After handling shared toys, communal items or learning materials

Employees should practise cough etiquette by coughing and sneezing into their sleeve or a tissue and discard it immediately. Employees should avoid sharing personal items. Employees should also avoid touching their mouth, nose, or eyes.

Environmental Cleaning

Increasing the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces is significant in controlling the spread of viruses. Shared materials or items, such as shared teaching materials, toys, and assessment tools, that students and employees may communally use should be cleaned and sanitized between uses by an employee. If this is not possible the material in question should not be made available for common use. Employees are to request cleaning and disinfecting supplies from their Supervisor.

Managing Symptoms of Covid-19

Before leaving home, employees must self-screen for symptoms each day. Those with symptoms must follow the Public Health guidelines in their province.

Use of Masks

APSEA employees are required to follow the Public Health guidelines and provincial directives with regards to mask usage. It is acknowledged that APSEA employees may choose to continue wearing masks when mask wearing is optional.

In-Person & Virtual Learning 2021 – 2022 School Year

APSEA employees will follow the educational plans and procedures of the local district/region/board. Employees may be supporting both in-school and home-based virtual learning throughout the school year, with the following considerations:

  • Employees who travel between schools and have contact with students will have additional protocols, including an activity log. See Appendix A: Employee Contact Log.
  • Employees will support school-based home learning plans for students when needed.
  • For activity planning, employees should ask themselves the following questions to determine the risk of the activities and whether they are allowed to proceed:
    • Does the activity involve shared surfaces or objects frequently touched by hands?
    • What is the frequency/possibility to clean high-touch surfaces (e.g., electronic devices, instruments, equipment, toys)?

Early Childhood Services: Early Childhood Centres/Daycare Settings

Individualized services designed to meet the needs of the child and family create an optimal language-learning environment for the child. The decision to allow in-person intervention between children, parents and APSEA employees in early childhood/ daycare settings is made in consultation with the parents, the early childhood/daycare employees and the APSEA employees member and is documented in the child’s file.

Telepractice services are preferred to replace home visits in order to reduce the risk of transmission. Should telepractice not be possible, a community setting such as a public park, school space and/or early learning and childcare facilities may be offered as an option. It is important to note that restrictions to any visits may be applied if Public Health restrictions are increased again due to increased threat of Covid-19 spread. For some situations where either of these options may not be possible, employees will discuss other options with their Supervisor.

The nature of these services in daycare or community settings may make it difficult to maintain physical distancing. Employees must maintain physical distancing whenever possible and must minimize risk of exposure and transmission while maintaining the ability to provide effective support and services. When the physical distancing is not feasible, employees must wear a face mask.

Records

Employees are required to maintain a log of names and locations. This will facilitate contact tracing by Public Health if a Covid-19 case was found in work locations or in employees. See Appendix A: Employee Contact Log.

Communication

APSEA employees should remain in contact with the school/early childhood centre/daycare teams and families to ensure clear communication of expectations and learning opportunities early in September and ongoing throughout the year. Employees should work in collaboration with school/early childhood centre/daycare teams to ensure their work aligns with the operational plans of the school/centres

APSEA would like to acknowledge the four Atlantic Provinces for sharing their Covid-19 planning documents.

Resources

Serving Children & Youth Who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing/Blind or Visually Impaired