In-person classes at West Royalty Elementary School in Charlottetown will be cancelled for at least a week, and others in the family of schools belonging to Charlottetown Rural High School and Colonel Gray High School will be cancelled for at least three days following an outbreak of COVID-19.
P.E.I. Premier Dennis King made the announcement at a news briefing on Sunday.
Dr. Heather Morrison, Prince Edward Island's chief public health officer, made the decision to suspend classes following six new cases of COVID-19 in people under the age of 19. Four are under the age of 10.
"This is not the news any of us want to hear," Morrison said.
There will also be a three-day suspension of extracurricular activities for students under the age of 19 in the Charlottetown area, Morrison said.
On Saturday, the Chief Public Health Office reported that a student at West Royalty Elementary had tested positive for COVID-19. Four of the new cases are considered close contacts of the case associated with West Royalty School.
"The situation at West Royalty Elementary School is considered an outbreak, the first school outbreak in P.E.I. since the pandemic began," Morrison said.
"We are erring on the side of caution, assuming the new cases are the highly transmissible Delta variant."
Another one of the new cases is a student at Charlottetown Rural High School. The other new case is a close contact of a case that was announced last week.
Contact tracing is underway. Morrison said she expects more positive cases in the coming days.
Ten of the last 11 new cases of COVID-19 in the province are in people under the age of 19. None are in hospital.
The new cases and school closures come on the day initially slated to be the fifth and final stage of the province's reopening plan — Sept. 12. However, on Sept. 8, the province announced the current measures would remain in place until further notice.
The schools closed for the next three days include:
Birchwood Intermediate School
Charlottetown Rural Senior High School
Colonel Grey Senior High School
Donagh Regional School
Glen Stewart Primary School
Grace Christian School
Immanuel Christian School
L.M. Montgomery Elementary School
Parkdale Elementary School
Prince Street Elementary School
Queen Charlottetown Intermediate School
Sherwood Elementary School
Spring Park Elementary School
St. Jean Elementary School
Stonepark Intermediate School
Stratford Elementary School
West Kent Elementary School
West Royalty Elementary School
West Royalty will begin online learning on Tuesday, said Norbert Carpenter, director of the Public Schools Branch. There will be no online learning at the other schools for the time being to allow for testing, he said.
Employers asked to be flexible
The premier encouraged employers to be flexible for parents who cannot find child care on short notice. He said parents who cannot arrange child care can find supports on the government website later Sunday.
Morrison made another plea for P.E.I. residents and visitors to get vaccinated — and tested if they develop symptoms.
"I am concerned that we do not know the extent of COVID transmission in P.E.I.," she said.
Following Sunday's announcement, Whisperwood Villa seniors home in Charlottetown posted on its Facebook page that it would be closed to visitors for the next three days.
P.E.I. has 14 active cases of COVID-19 and has had 247 positive cases since the onset of the pandemic, which began in March 2020.
As of Sept. 8, 246,214 doses of vaccine had been administered on P.E.I. Ninety-two per cent of the eligible population had received at least one dose and 83.1 per cent had received two doses.
Children under the age of 12 are not eligible to be vaccinated.
The testing clinic on Park Street in Charlottetown was open until 6 p.m. on Sunday, but staff had to turn people away around 5 p.m. because the line was so long they had reached the maximum number of people they could test before closing.
The clinic will reopen Monday at 8 a.m.
There is one public notification related to a case that was announced last week. Anyone who travelled on West Jet flight 330 on Sept. 10, arriving in Charlottetown at 12:15 p.m. should monitor for symptoms and get tested if any develop.