MONTREAL, OCTOBER 29, 2009- A Central Emergency Response Team (CERT) continues to monitor Influenza A H1N1 and its impact at the English Montreal School Board (EMSB).
The Influenza A prevention initiatives are rooted in the Board’s general emergency preparedness. All principals and vice principals attended workshops given by the firm Hour Zero last spring that dealt with H1N1, as well as workshops which were held in the fall. A CERT Team has been in place since the month of August and has met a number of times. Its goal is to treat topics of concern as they relate to Influenza A and make recommendations for monitoring the progress of the virus at the EMSB.
Recently, an Influenza A workshop for all caretakers and cafeteria workers was organized by the Human Resources and the Building and Grounds Departments. A stockpile of cleaning products cleaning cloths, masks, germicide and other necessary equipment is in place.
The transportation arm of Community Services is in discussion with TRANSCO authorities to work out a protocol regarding “what to do if a child is ill on the bus, on the way in to school.” Community Services is also in the midst of scheduling a workshop for daycare personnel. This has been tentatively set for Nov 20.
The EMSB has gone out to tender for a voice messaging system which can be used to contact all parents and staff of the EMSB. In terms of regular updates, there is an Influenza A - H1N1 section on the EMSB website It has recent letters to parents from the Director General, articles which may be of interest to parents and staff, and memorandums sent from the MELS.
The EMSB is committed to notifying parents of suspected Influenza A cases, based on management and CERT team decisions. This week, there have been nine notifications of suspected cases thus far. A school/centre that is on flu watch, will have the principal meet with the staff to inform them, there is a letter sent home to parents advising them of the suspected case, the school/centre submits daily attendance reports and the isolation room is used if it is necessary. Notifications go out to the parents even if they are not confirmed cases of the virus, We prefer to notify the school community and exercise maximum caution.
On October 7 the Emergency Measures Task Force (EMTF), which is composed of principals from each of the four regions, met to discuss general emergency preparedness. “The EMTF has been in existence since 2008 and it is our lead group in the Board on emergency preparedness,” says Region 1 Director Marzia Michielli, who is heading up the H1N1 task force. “Influenza A was also discussed as part of this session.”
Essential functions are being studied in each department and a pandemic preparedness plan continues to be put in place at the EMSB. Business continuity strategies and possible educational continuity strategies are being reviewed. A number of hand sanitizers have been distributed to every school and centre. The hand sanitizers were sent for use by visitors to the school. The best defence against the virus is thorough hand-washing and schools have stepped up their efforts to increase hand-washing among their students. High-touch areas are subject to greater cleaning.
Preparations for the use of an ISOLATION ROOM have been made in each school/centre should its use become required. Students exhibiting flu-like symptoms will be housed in this supervised area, as they await parents to take them home. N95 masks have been purchased and distributed to schools and an additional supply has been stockpiled at the EMSB. There are a few thousand masks ready to be deployed should the need arise. If and when it becomes necessary, the EMSB will act in unison with the Health Authorities should school closures be considered. There is no cause for concern at the present time.
A more recent measure involves a recommendation asking people not to greet each other by shaking hands, hugging or kissing. Given the self-care guide which was distributed to all households, the EMSB has aligned its practices with the government guide content.
There is a directive from the MELS that any school/centre which has a 10 percent absence rate in any given class, level or grouping must report this absence rate to MELS directly. “We have three such schools which have reported absences to the Ministry this week,” said Ms. Michielli.