Students return to school on Northern Peninsula after delayed start due to COVID-19 cluster

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Students returned to three schools on the Northern Peninsula on Tuesday, including Cloud River Academy in Roddickton-Bide Arm, after a cluster of COVID-19 cases in the region forced a delayed reopening.  (Cloud River Academy/Facebook - image credit)
Students returned to three schools on the Northern Peninsula on Tuesday, including Cloud River Academy in Roddickton-Bide Arm, after a cluster of COVID-19 cases in the region forced a delayed reopening. (Cloud River Academy/Facebook - image credit)
Cloud River Academy/Facebook
Cloud River Academy/Facebook

Tuesday marked the first day of classes for three schools on the Northern Peninsula after a cluster of COVID-19 cases in the region forced a delayed reopening for cautionary purposes.

The affected schools were Cloud River Academy in Roddickton-Bide Arm, H.G. Fillier Academy in Englee and Mary Simms All Grade in Main Brook.

As of Monday, 15 COVID-19 cases were connected to the cluster, and the Department of Health says it's continuing contact tracing. A portion of the Northern Peninsula moved to Alert Level 3 of the province's public health restrictions strategy last week. The remainder of the province is in Alert Level 2.

Stephanie Fillier, a mother of a Grade 9 student and a Grade 11 student, told CBC Radio's Newfoundland Morning she hopes things will quickly pass as students return to class under "high alert."

Fillier is also mayor of Englee.

"We were supposed to go back, basically, mostly unmasked," she said.

"We were supposed to be allowed microwave use. Last year we had to go through all year without microwave use.... It's a bit tricky when it comes to trying to keep meals warm."

It was only days before schools across the province were about to welcome back students for the year when the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District, following the province's public health alert system, halted the process for three schools on the Northern Peninsula.

Lincoln Journal/Kenneth Ferriera
Lincoln Journal/Kenneth Ferriera

Fillier said her kids were excited over the prospect of having another week added to their summer vacation. However, she added, the delay was likely disruptive to parents who had a wrench thrown into their child-care plans.

Still, Fillier continued, many remained relaxed over the delayed reopening plan.

"Routine is the biggest thing, and I always thought it was when the kids were small you needed a better routine," she said.

"But when it's teenagers, trying to get them up in the morning and off to school is harder."

As for the cluster itself, Fillier said her community and surrounding communities did a good job reacting to rising COVID-19 cases.

She said local stores began limiting capacity and asking customers to wear masks before the provincial government released details about the growing cluster and moved the area to Alert Level 3.

Last week the province's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald told reporters only about 60 per cent of people living on the tip of the Northern Peninsula have been vaccinated so far.

"I feel, until now, our little communities here ... hadn't seen the real threat of COVID because we didn't have any here," said Fillier.

"Now it's more of a scare, so hopefully it'll convince more people that were on the fence to go out and get vaccinated."

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