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MGH’s School Outreach Team develops playbook to help health care organizations support schools in safe operation of in-person learning
Since September 2020, Michael Garron Hospital’s (MGH) School Outreach Team has been supporting schools in East Toronto in their ability to operate safely and quickly respond to suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19. The team has leveraged MGH’s existing relationships and built new connections with schools in East Toronto to ensure they have the support and resources they need for safe in-person learning during the pandemic.
This has involved working with primary care providers and community partners, as well as school boards and public health bodies, to conduct initiatives like virtual town halls with teachers and principals, broad-based and integrated asymptomatic testing pilots, and confirmed case follow-up with students and staff. To date, the team has supported more than 100 schools across four school boards in East Toronto.
Now, the team has published a COVID-19 School Support Playbook to share a model and key learnings that other health care organizations may adopt to assist schools in safely reopening and operating during the pandemic. Published in April 2021, the playbook outlines a number of innovative strategies developed and carried out by the MGH School Outreach Team during the COVID-19 pandemic. These include strategies that help increase access to COVID-19 testing in school communities; support educators; and streamline outbreak management and response.
“Supporting the safe reopening and operation of schools in our community during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a team-based, all-hands-on-deck effort,” says Dr. Janine McCready, infectious diseases physician at MGH and lead of the MGH School Outreach Team.
“Throughout this journey, our team has learned valuable lessons in how to effectively protect the health and safety of students, staff and their families, and what approaches work best for specific communities. We’re excited to share these learnings with other health care organizations across Ontario and beyond so, together, we can develop and implement strategies that help ensure children and youth may continue to receive the in-classroom learning that is so vital to their health, happiness and development.”
The MGH School Outreach Team encourages health care organizations to view, download and share the MGH COVID-19 School Support Playbook for Health Care Organizations.
The team would like to thank the following groups and organizations for their assistance in helping to prevent and limit the spread of COVID-19 at schools in East Toronto: MGH’s COVID-19 Assessment Centre, MGH’s Emergency Department, East Toronto Family Practice Network (EasT-FPN) and other member organizations within East Toronto Health Partners (ETHP).
In addition, it thanks the school boards and government bodies it collaborated with on its initiatives: Toronto District School Board (TDSB), Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB), Association franco-ontarienne des conseils scolaires catholiques (AFOCSC), Conseil scolaire Viamonde (CSV), Toronto Public Health (TPH) and Ontario Health (OH).
The team thanks Dr. Chris Kandel, infectious diseases physician at MGH, who led the development and validation of the oral-nasal swab test, which has been critical in efforts to proactively identify positive COVID-19 cases at schools and prevent and limit transmission. It also thanks the MGH and ETHP Corporate Communications teams, who have aided significantly in the creation of this playbook.
Last but certainly not least, the MGH School Outreach Team extends its gratitude to the students, educators, administrative staff and families who have embraced the team’s outreach and innovative approaches to ensuring safe in-person learning in East Toronto communities.