WELLINGTON COUNTY – As the COVID-19 vaccine rollout ramps up, with dedicated clinic times set for students, school boards in Wellington County are preparing for an in-person return to school in the fall.
During the weeks of June 14 and June 21, Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health (WDGPH) will have dedicated clinics for students aged 12 to 17.
Students in the 12 to 17 age group who receive their first dose in June, will be scheduled to receive their second dose in August, according to WDGPH.
“Up to this point now, without even opening those clinics we already have 52 per cent of our 12 to 17-year old’s either booked or have received their first dose of vaccination,” director of community health and chief nursing officer for WDGPH Rita Isley explained.
WDGPH started vaccinating the 12 to 17 age group a week prior to June 1, putting them ahead of the provincial start date.
In terms of vaccine eligibility, set under public health guidelines, individuals must meet the following requirements:
- youth must be at least 12 years of age at the time of pre-registration;
- youth 12+ who live in or attend a school in WDG region (including home school) or are visiting WDG region for more than 16 weeks (i.e. international students);
- family members 12 years of age or older who have not yet received their first dose vaccine appointment can also book appointments at these clinics.
Students 12+ can register on the WDGPH website at wdgpublichealth.ca.
Currently, children under the age of 12 are not eligible for vaccines in Canada, although Isley noted WDGPH is looking at fall or early winter for the younger population to receive their vaccinations.
Isley said WDGPH has been working closely with school boards in the region to ensure any barriers that would prohibit students getting vaccinated are removed as much as possible.
This includes working with boards across the region to get messaging out, providing additional space when needed and providing support to families to get their appointments booked.
“What we’re looking for is to get all of our kids vaccinated as soon as possible and then get their second doses in at least two weeks before school starts in September,” Isley said.
Similar to other provincial protocols, when they come in and get their first dose they will book an appointment for their second dose, which is currently scheduled for the beginning of August.
“We’re focusing on the first two weeks of August to get these students in so that they have two weeks after they get vaccinated for their body to develop the immunity and when they attend school then they’re immune,” Isley explained.
Isley said she’s doesn’t know at this time if students aged 12 to 17 will be fully vaccinated by fall.
“What I can definitely say is that we have enough vaccine in the month of June to be able to vaccinate all approximately 21,000 students in the 12 to 17-year-old bracket,” she noted. “We have enough vaccine to be able to give them their first dose if they want it.”
Isley emphasized the importance of making sure that school reopens safely in the fall and one of the biggest ways to do that is for these kids to get vaccinated.
At this time, Wellington Catholic District School Board (WCDSB) is planning to return to in-person learning in the fall while still offering remote learning, for both elementary and secondary levels.
In an email statement from WCDSB on the board’s plans for the 2021-22 school year, communications officer Alison Wilson said the board will be following instruction from the Ministry of Education.
Upper Grand District School Board (UGDSB) superintendent of education Gary Slater said the board doesn’t know yet what role the vaccine will play in terms of return to school, noting it will be receiving direction from the Ministry of Education and public health around what possible health and safety requirements are required for schools in the coming months.
“School will definitely be in person again and we are still offering an online option for elementary and secondary and our plan is to have both available,” Slater said, adding the board expects to have smaller remote schools.
“But it’s the actual things like the physical distancing, the masking, the hand sanitizing, all of those routines that were put in place for this school year,” he explained.
“That’s the guidance that we’re waiting for still from public health and the Ministry of Education.”
Slater said for students under 12 who are not yet eligible for the vaccine, the board will be waiting to take direction from public health and from the Ministry of Education, which they expect to receive over the summer.
“My understanding at this time, is that vaccines are not going to be a requirement for school and so they’re one added layer that will be available and certainly a welcome addition,” he explained.
“But in terms of ‘what does that mean for our elementary students’ – keeping them in or allowing students to school – won’t change based on their vaccination.”
Slater said the board will be reviewing the protocols put in place this year in anticipation for a return to in-person learning in the fall.
“We’ll be starting school with certain procedures in place, certain things that we can feel comfortable knowing can start up,” he explained.
“Then as we see how things progress in the fall, we’ll start adding things in… so that we’re being very careful about it.”
He added once the board has clear information, it will communicate with parents to give as much notice as possible about what’s happening in the schools.
Information about student designated vaccination times are available on the UGDSB website as well as individual school websites.