Back to disinfected school in Western Quebec

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by Trevor Greenway on August 27, 2009

School board ‘prepared as can be’ for swine flu

The Western Quebec School Board is confident that it is “as prepared as we can be” for a flu pandemic this fall as students prepare their return to classrooms.

The board’s Director General, Mike Dawson, said the board has done a lot of preparation over the summer to ensure that schools are clean and safe for students.

“We thoroughly cleaned schools with disinfectant,” he said. “Every place kids touch, poke and feel is clean.”

Dawson said a letter to all the board’s parents was sent out Aug. 25, with assurances that the board’s pandemic plan is in place and operational. He said the board developed the province’s first Crisis and Emergency Preparedness Plan five years ago, which covers everything from explosions to pandemics.

Dawson said hand washing stations have been added at schools, along with posters reminding students of proper hand-washing procedures. Local schools of the WQSB include St. Michael’s High in Low, Queen Elizabeth Elementary in Kazabazua, Wakefield and Chelsea Elementary Schools, and Philemon Wright and D’Arcy McGee Highs in Gatineau.

He said schools would do their best to keep sick kids out of the classroom to avoid infecting their peers. As far as a plan to keep sick students isolated from others while they were waiting to be sent home, Dawson said there was no sweeping procedure.

“The expectation is that schools and staff will use their professional judgment as in all situations,” he said.

Dawson said the issue of vaccines rests with the province, as does the decision to close schools. Any situation – be it swine flu or a fire – where a school’s safety can’t be maintained the board would shut it down, “but as a general policy that’s not my decision,” he said.

Dawson also said that staff members’ absence is an individual choice based what their doctors tell them, and he had no plan to force sick teachers from coming to school.

“We’re as prepared as we can be,” Dawson said. “What happens next is out of our hands.”