Blessed Sacrament CES closing due to 'widespread and rapid transmission' of COVID-19
Health officials in Waterloo Region have directed Blessed Sacrament CES in Kitchener to close over "concern for widespread and rapid transmission of COVID-19."
A news release said the school will be closed for in-person learning for at least 10 days, starting Wednesday.
There are 19 COVID-19 cases at the school and multiple cohorts have been dismissed. Public health officials are recommending rapid antigen testing once the school is ready to open again. They're working with the Waterloo Catholic District School Board to distribute testing kits to families.
“We are taking important and necessary steps to protect children, staff and the school community from exposure to the COVID-19 virus,” said Dr. Julie Emili, associate medical officer of health, in a news release. “We are closing a school for the first time since the return to in-class learning this fall due to concern about the potential for widespread and rapid transmission of the virus.”
In an emailed statement, Loretta Notten, the director of education for the WCDSB, said she is pleased with the decision to close the school.
"We asked public health for the closure out of an abundance of caution and in support of the health and well-being of our school community," the interview from Notten said in part. "We know it will give our families and our staff the confidence to return to learning in a way that feels healthy and safe – in the short term as we pivot to online learning for a short while, and when they return to in-person learning."
Notten said the closure "does illustrate how quickly things can change and the importance of vaccination."
"The majority of cases are in two cohorts, and it would suggest that perhaps an early case was undetected, but we are confident that our protocols are strong and our schools are safe," Notten said. "The health and safety of our students is always our paramount concern, so we are pleased public health supported our request and we look forward to the safe return of our staff and students at the end of the closure."
"Right now, primarily two classroom settings for almost 70 per cent of the cases," Dr. Emili said at a media briefing on Wednesday.
Public health said none of the cases are serious or require hospitalization, but some students are vaccinated.
Toni Guilmette's daughter was listed as a high-risk contact and has been self-isolating for a week.
"I have three kids at home," Guilmette said. "I've had to miss work due to this."
Students will be learning online throughout the school closure.
There are around 340 students at the school and at least 142 have been identified as high-risk contacts, and more could be added through contact tracing.
"It looks like it's affected a wide range, from the youngest to the oldest in the school," said Patrick Etmanski, president of OECTA Waterloo Region.
Public health officials said they're working with the school on infection prevention and control protocols.