Is your child going back to school? Here’s what to ask about COVID-19 safety

By | September 7, 2020

TORONTO — From the ventilation in schools to how often doorknobs are cleaned, parents are brimming with questions as their children return to the classroom.

Safety professional Lee-Anne Lyon-Bartley — affectionately known as the ‘Safety Diva’ — told CTV News Channel that there’s a few questions parents should definitely be aware of for this back-to-school season.

“I think you want to get a sense of, ‘What are they doing?’” she said in reference to each individual school’s preparations.

“What is the schedule at my child’s school for cleaning and disinfection?”

She pointed out that high-touch areas in schools, such as doorknobs, handles and railings should be disinfected “at least twice a day,” since so many hands will use them.

“The things that people are going to touch the most is where you’re going to likely have the spread of COVID-19,” she said. “So are they being disinfected? Cleaning is one thing, but disinfection is another. Are they being disinfected often enough, and is the disinfectant that they’re using on the approved list from the government of Canada?

“Those are some of the questions that I’ll be asking my child’s school next week.”

How much ventilation a school or classroom has is important, and is something parents could be pressing on.

“Ventilation is one of the points that I don’t think we’ve heard a lot about in all of the news that’s come through, and it is important,” Lyon-Bartley said. “There’s the public health measures, with the social distancing, there’s the hand washing, all those things, but [for] the actual physical building itself, ventilation […] can actually make a big difference.”

Lyon-Bartley identified the Building Owners and Managers Association of Canada (BOMA Canada) pandemic planning guide as a good resource.

“It talks about how you want to make sure that your schedules for your HVAC system and your preventative maintenance is being done and being done accordingly,” she said. “And also just making sure that you’re changing out those filters often.”

It’s worth probing to see if schools are taking these measures seriously.

Some of the biggest questions on parents’ minds are sure to be related to COVID-19 cases or outbreaks within schools. You want to make sure you’re aware of how schools plan to notify students, and what steps students and parents would be taking after that.

“Most schools are going to have notification systems in place,” she said. “My child goes to school in the Peel District School Board, and we’ve already been informed that we’ll be able to see if there are cases happening at his school or other schools.”

Public health officials will also be working with schools, she said, and will be required to notify the public separately in the event of outbreaks or cases as well.

“So you should expect to hear from either the school board or from Public Health if your child is at risk,” she said. “And if your child is diagnosed, then of course you’re going to follow the guidance from Public Health and your healthcare providers and follow it to a tee.”

The best way to make sure the information you’re looking up is relevant to your child’s school is to make sure you’re looking local and official.

“Stick to the information coming from your schoolboard, coming from the government of Ontario, coming from the government of Canada, and also your local public health,” Lyon-Bartley said. “Public health is different in different provinces and it’s really important for us to follow what’s maybe the closest to home and get that information.”

Getting panicked over regulations for a province on the other side of the country from you is not going to help you keep your anxiety down.

Staying on top of the changing landscape as the weeks go by will be incredibly important as well, as things unfold.

“We’re still just entering the schools, but what will tomorrow look like and what will next week look like?” Lyon-Bartley said. “That’s why you really do want to keep informed, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

“Take action now.” 

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