Following a request for its members to be provided with COVID-19 rapid antigen tests for use over the winter break from the union representing Near North District School Board staff, the board trustees called a special meeting to discuss the matter.
Director of Education Craig Myles said the senior team saw merit in the request and investigated it before a compromise was reached.
"In light of the distribution and time frame obstacles, yet aware of the priority of the safety and well-being of staff and students, NNDSB will reimburse volunteers for one single rapid antigen test performed at participating pharmacies," reads a statement from the board.
"These important measures requested by our union partners are appreciated and will complete our all-inclusive efforts to ensure the health and safety of both students and staff," agreed Board Chair Jay Aspin.
Employees returning to work on Jan. 5, 2022, who choose to voluntarily access the testing service must have their test done in the 48-hour window prior to returning to work. Twelve-month employees who work over the winter break will also be reimbursed for a single rapid antigen test performed at some point during the two-week break.
Also discussed was the potential for a transition to remote learning following the winter break. Director Myles shared with the trustees there has not been any indication from either the Ministry of Education or public health officials that schools will close, but NNDSB has prepared families and staff to facilitate a smooth transition.
“Out of an abundance of caution and to ensure our families are prepared, communication was sent out late last week to confirm that learning materials would
be sent home with students,” he said.
Students also left for the break with five rapid antigen tests courtesy of the Ministry of Education, accompanied by how-to directions and an instructional video link.
"It is recommended that students conduct rapid antigen tests every three to four days over the holiday break, beginning December 23, until all five tests have been used," stated Minister of Education Stephen Lecce in a letter to parents and guardians.
"Participation in this rapid antigen testing program is entirely voluntary, but we know that rapid antigen testing is another way that we can help limit the spread of COVID-19 and support a safer return to school after the holidays."
Students have been instructed to only use the tests if they are asymptomatic and have not been exposed to a confirmed case. Anyone who has symptoms, or is identified as a close contact of a case, should follow public health advice and get a PCR test for COVID-19.