Cohorts promoted as “very effective” ahead of first day of school

© Can Stock Photo / HighwayStarz

Chatham-Kent’s Medical Officer of Health is hoping students have “as normal a school experience as possible” when they return to the classroom next week.

With school just days away from starting up again with in-person learning, Dr. David Colby expressed confidence in the controls that have been put in place to prevent any possible spread of COVID-19 between classrooms.

“The cohorting system that we were using at the end of the school year last year was very, very effective,” said Dr. Colby, adding that it has been “refined and honed.”

He said by keeping students in the same group, if there is a problem, the entire cohort can be isolated without affecting other groups in the school.

Dr. Colby also pointed out increasing vaccination rates as another form of protection that was not available last year. Since the vaccine was first approved for children aged 12 and older in May, a majority of local residents in that age range have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

As of Friday morning, 62 per cent of eligible residents in Chatham-Kent aged 12-17 had received at least one dose and 50 per cent of CK youths in that same age range had received two doses.

When it comes to extra curricular activities, there are no plans at this point to delay those — and no recommendations from the CK public health unit to push them back.

In nearby Windsor-Essex, the public health unit recently urged schools in that region to delay the start of sports, clubs, field trips and other non-essential activities within all school settings until at least October.

However, in Chatham-Kent, Dr. Colby said as of Thursday there were no plans to delay extracurricular activities in the Lambton-Kent region, adding that he had not had any discussions about that yet with the Medical Officer of Health in Lambton County.

When pressed on whether a delay would be necessary, Dr. Colby said the school boards already have a number of controls in place, adding again that the cohorting system within schools has worked very well.

“We’ll have to see what happens as the school year opens up,” said Dr. Colby. “Certainly if any problems come to light, we’ll deal with that not only in a reactive fashion but in a proactive fashion to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”

He emphasized that vaccinations is still the best way to ensure students have a school experience that is as close to “normal” as possible.

The St. Clair Catholic District School Board released its back-to-school framework last week and the Lambton-Kent District School Board released its plan about a week before that.