School trips cancelled, cleaning increased as Peterborough-area school boards plan for COVID-19

School boards in the Peterborough area are closely monitoring the coronavirus and have stepped up cleaning measures. Getty Images

School boards in the Peterborough area say they’re closely monitoring and planning for novel coronavirus as students head into the March Break.

The Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board said in a letter to parents on Wednesday that the board is working closely with the area’s health units. Last week, the board initiated its Pandemic Emergency Management Committee to manage an operational response.

Peterborough Public Health said Wednesday there are no presumptive or confirmed cases of the virus in its jurisdiction of Peterborough, Peterborough County, Curve Lake First Nation and Hiawatha First Nation.

READ MORE: Peterborough Public Health extends hours for COVID-19 hotline

“The guiding principle of our work in this area is to ensure the safety and well-being of our students and staff is always our main priority,” the board stated. “As part of this work, we are prepared to adopt any measures or adjustments to school operations that are recommended by health authorities.”

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The board says it has requested custodians to increase cleaning measures, specifically on high-touch surfaces.

“As part of our planning, we have also confirmed with our cleaning product supplier that the disinfectant we use in our schools is effective against a wide variety of viruses and bacteria, including COVID-19,” the board stated.

“We initiate additional sanitation procedures in schools whenever there are higher rates of absences. To date, we have not experienced school absences beyond the normal pattern of seasonal illnesses.”

Increased cleaning at all schools has also been emphasized at the Trillium Lakelands District School Board with extra disinfectant wipes provided for shared items including keyboards. Hand-sanitizer can be used by students under the direction of an adult.

READ MORE: Peterborough Medical Officer of Health urges residents to prepare for COVID-19

On Thursday, the board stated all international, out-of-province and out-of-district school trips have been cancelled for the remainder of the school year. The board’s arts camp has also been cancelled.

“Individual schools are working with tour operators to determine rescheduling or refund options, the board stated.

Schools have also been asked to consider temporarily cancelling the shared use of musical instruments.

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The Peterborough, Victoria, Northumberland and Clarington (PVNC) Catholic District School Board says it’s also working closely with the three public health units in its jurisdiction to receive and communicate the most up-to-date information about COVID-19.

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The board said earlier this week it initiated its Emergency Preparedness Committee to act on any control measures or recommendations to school operations if directed by health authorities.

“The safety and well-being of our students and staff is always our main priority,” the board stated.

Since January, the Catholic board says it has been undertaking its Proactive Outbreak Cleaning Protocol in all of its schools, which involves antiseptic cleaning of all touch-points and surfaces.

READ MORE: Going on vacation amid the coronavirus outbreak? Here’s what to know

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“We have purchased extra equipment and are supplementing custodial staff where needed to maintain our focus on this very important process,” the board said. “We are also supporting schools to ensure they are well stocked with hand soap and hand sanitizer.”

All three school boards reminded families travelling during March Break to stay informed about precautions to take when returning home. The boards also urged students and parents to practise regular hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette such as covering the mouth and nose during coughing or sneezing.

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