Schools reacting quickly to COVID-19 cases but community needs to do its part, says board rep

·3 min read
COVID-19 leads at the English catholic and public school boards in Windsor-Essex say schools are safe, and many positive cases seem to be transmitting within the community. Schools are set to see vaccine clinics in December.  (Stacey Janzer/CBC - image credit)
COVID-19 leads at the English catholic and public school boards in Windsor-Essex say schools are safe, and many positive cases seem to be transmitting within the community. Schools are set to see vaccine clinics in December. (Stacey Janzer/CBC - image credit)

The COVID-19 leads at the English public and Catholic school boards in Windsor-Essex say schools are doing their best to keep students safe, but that the community also has a responsibility to slow the spread of the virus.

"We have seen an uptick in our COVID dismissal as of late," said Kelly-Ann Bull, superintendent with the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board.

"However, we are containing them by responding quickly and dismissing cohorts."

The Catholic board dismissed 17 classes and three bus cohorts this weekend alone. According to the board's website, as of Nov. 29 about 52 classes have been dismissed due to a few dozen cases and two schools — St. Joseph and St. Gabriel elementary schools — are closed due to outbreaks.

We are strongly encouraging [vaccination] as we are seeing most of the dismissals are in our elementary students. - Kelly-Ann Bull, superintendent, Windsor Essex Catholic school board

However, Bull said that anecdotally, the board is hearing that some families who have been directed to isolate by the Windsor-Essex County health Unit, and not following that public health authority.

Darrin Di Carlo/CBC
Darrin Di Carlo/CBC

"What we really need is for our isolated dismissals — we need our students to remain isolating. We are hearing that some of our families are not taking the isolating seriously," said Bull.

"We feel our schools are safe but we really need our community to do their part, too."

Bull said there isn't anything the board can do to ensure people are following public health recommendations, and that it's up to individuals to follow this guidance.

Vaccine clinics planned for school sites

Bull's counterpart Todd Awender, superintendent with the Greater Essex County District School Board, said he also believes that schools are safe for students and teachers and that the spread of the virus seems to be happening more in the community.

"The numbers have been rising a little bit lately and I'm hoping we can get that back down," Awender said of the spread of COVID-19 within Windsor-Essex.

While the public board doesn't report on the number of classes dismissed due to COVID-19, according to its website about 51 cases are active among students and teachers within the board as of Nov. 29.

Both superintendents have been working on getting vaccination clinics at the schools starting next month, hoping that vaccines for those aged 5-11 may help limit the spread and dismissal among elementary students.

"My greatest concern is people isolating when they're told to isolate from the health unit, and the parents concerned about vaccination," said Bull, who added that any parent who might be unsure about a vaccination should speak directly to a health-care professional.

Now that vaccines are available to younger children, Bull is hopeful this may slow the spread of the virus among those groups. She said high school class dismissals have slowed down since vaccines were made available to children aged 12 and up.

"We are strongly encouraging [vaccination] as we are seeing most of the dismissals are in our elementary students," she said.

According to the health unit's data Tuesday, seven schools are currently under a COVID-19 outbreak, meaning two or more people have tested positive for COVID-19 within a "reasonable timeline," which suggests the virus has transmitted there.

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