Education Minister says plans are to keep schools open

By Charlie Senack

Manotick Messenger

As schools in Ontario continue to be gripped with large amounts of active COVID-19 cases, the province’s education minister says they have “every indication” schools will remain open.

Stephen Lecce, Ontario’s education minister, says with the April spring break just weeks away, classes are expected to remain in-person when students return. Lecce also said they aren’t planning to move or cancel the break again — it was initially supposed to be held in March but was moved to April to control possible COVID-19 spread.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has however said they aren’t ruling out the possibility of changing the break again.

More than 47 Ontario schools are currently closed due to COVID-19 outbreaks with 1,738 active cases reported among students in the province within the last 14 days, and another 385 among staff. The active COVID-19 cases stretch between 1,116 schools in Ontario — making up 23.12 per cent of the province’s schools. There are 4,828 total.

As of March 29, the Ottawa Catholic School Board has reported 42 active and confirmed cases among students with another five among staff. The cases impact 28 schools. At least 50 classes and 12 cohorts are closed as a result.

St. Mark High School in Manotick is reporting one case, while St. Francis Xavier High School in Riverside South is reporting five cases among students.

At St. Leonard Catholic Elementary School in Manotick, two classes are closed as there are two active cases among staff members. St. Philip Elementary School in Richmond has three classrooms closed as one student and one staff member have active COVID cases.

Ecole elementaire catholique Jonathan-Pitre in Riverside South closed after a COVID-19 outbreak. (Jeff Morris photo)

In the Ottawa Carleton District School Board, there are 84 active COVID-19 cases among students and 15 among staff, as of March 30. Two classes are closed.

South Carleton High School and Osgoode Township High School have no cases as of press time.

Active COVID-19 cases among local elementary schools include two cases at Castor Valley Elementary School, and one active case at Greely Elementary School, Kars on the Rideau Public School and Osgoode Public School. There are no active cases at Manotick Public School, North Gower Public School and Richmond Public School.

A COVID-19 outbreak has also been declared at École secondaire catholique Pierre-Savard, where two students and one staff member have tested positive for the virus.

Ecole elementaire catholique Jonathan Pitre in Riverside South closed on March 15 after a large COVID-19 outbreak. Currently there are nine active cases among students.

Because of a lag in the system, some of the numbers could be a few days behind. Information on the school boards website and the education ministry’s website can also be different.

Many teachers and parents have contacted the Manotick Messenger to say they are concerned about the increased transmission of COVID-19 in schools. With a third wave upon us and more contagious variants quickly spreading, more protocols and procedures need to be put in place, says some teachers.

While the Ontario government is currently saying the plan is to keep schools open, many in Ottawa are planning for all possibilities. Some schools in Ottawa have told their students to bring all learning materials home with them over the Easter break in the event of remote learning resuming. Some are also signing out learning devices such as chrome books and iPads for students to use in the event classes are taught remotely.