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Positive reception to Horizon COVID protocols

Posted on November 19, 2020 by Vauxhall Advance

By Cole Parkinson

Vauxhall Advance

After several Horizon Division Schools underwent Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) audits, reports are proper COVID protocols are being used.

During Horizon’s Oct. 26 board meeting, members were briefed on the results from the audit.

“Eleven schools were undertaken in that process,” explained Wilco Tymensen, superintendent of schools. “Ultimately, Alberta Ed and the government of Alberta, to ensure the safety of our students and staff across the province, they undertook a random sampling of audits at schools. Their goal was around 10 per cent of schools across Alberta and to have the provincial OHS organization, auditors and inspectors come in specifically focusing on COVID and what the processes and practices are within the buildings.”

While the target was much lower originally, Horizon saw around two-thirds of their schools involved with the audit.

“We actually had closer to 60 per cent of our schools audited. We inquired if that percentage could be increased from 10 per cent. We certainly felt that to ensure we were doing our best and incorporating our best practices to ensure we were doing everything possible to ensure the safety of students and staff. We wanted to get broader feedback and they were able to accommodate us,” added Tymensen. “Ultimately, the feedback from the auditors was actually really good. They had very few suggestions on things to improve. They were a couple of minor things and they looked at everything from mask use in the building, how are you tracking visitors in the building, what does cleaning look like, what are the schedules for cleaning, hand sanitizer and where is it located, is there tape on the floor for directing of traffic and all of those variables they look at. We would have had both an employer and an employee representation at those.”

While reports back were largely positive, the divisions did receive some feed- back on how they could tighten up their safety measures moving forward.

“My understanding, as Phil (Johansen, associate superintendent of finance and operations) would have attended all of them, is they provided a final report as well. Some of the recommendations were a reminder that when you do have a joint workplace committee that you have co-chairs in your committee. The goal of OHS is to make sure staff have the ability to be informed and a part of the safety process. Therefore, when you have a co- chair, you have an employee and an employer representative leading those committees and your facilities. That was the case at nearly every school so it was a suggestion for improving,” said Tymensen.

“The other piece was a reminder as well. We often talk about having people self-screen whether it be the kids or staff. The suggestion was, and although it meets criteria, it doesn’t hurt to have informal or infrequent checking up on people. In other words, if you were a teacher and you have kids in your class, it doesn’t hurt every once in a while to ask and remind people to do their daily check- ing and review what the process looks like. What the screen questions are and making sure people are keeping it in the back of their head. The same thing with staff. When they come into the building, an administrator would have dialogue with their employees. The suggestion was to bring it up just as a reminder.”

Despite the good reviews the division has had, they have also dealt with COVID cases throughout the first few months of school.

As numbers have climbed in the Municipal District of Taber, several Horizon School Division schools have felt the impact.

“We’ve had a number of schools who have been impacted by individuals who tested positive with COVID. These have resulted in both staff and students being quarantined by AHS. These cases are a reflection of COVID in our community, and we continue to stress that our school communities embrace the public health measures to ensure everyone remains healthy. To date, WR Myers, Taber Mennonite School, DA Ferguson, Taber Christian, LT Westlake, Central School, Vauxhall High School and Horizon Mennonite Alternative Program have all been impacted,” said Wilco Tymensen, superintendent of schools.

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