Brant Hills Public School in Burlington, Walpole North Elementary School near Hagersville have COVID-19 cases
Two days of class — that’s all it took for an elementary school near Hagersville in Haldimand County to get a positive case for COVID-19. Meanwhile, another elementary school in Burlington also has its first case after just five days of class. Halton District School Board (HDSB) posted on Sunday that someone at Brant Hills Public School has the virus. The school will remain open but no other details were available as of late Sunday night.
In Haldimand County, Walpole North Elementary School principal Randy Ongena issued a letter to families on Sunday evening about its first case, noting that local public health notified him that afternoon.”This individual has been directed by the health unit to self-isolate for 14 days, along with any siblings or family members who reside in the same household,” reads his letter.
“The health unit has also been in direct contact with students, staff and families who have been deemed close contacts to this COVID-19 case. They, too, have been asked to self-isolate for 14 days. A close contact includes any students or staff in this individual’s class, but may also include others.”
The school will not reveal if the infected individual is a student or staff, despite Ontario providing that information in its own reporting of COVID-19 cases in schools. “Understandably, for privacy reasons, this is all we can share with you,” Kimberly Newhouse, a spokesperson for Grand Erie District School Board (GEDSB), wrote in an email Sunday night.
HDSB also did not say if the person infected is a teacher, a staff member or a student. It’s also unclear what kind of symptoms the infected people have or had, where and/or how they got the virus, how long they may have exposed others and how many people have to isolate.
Classes at the Walpole North started in a staggered format on Thursday, while HDSB started staggered classes on Tuesday. The staggered start eases contact tracing when a COVID-19 case does pop up.
Ongena’s letter said Walpole North will be open Monday for anyone not self-isolating. “Grand Erie custodians have completed a disinfecting of our school,” reads the letter. “The individual who tested positive as well as all close contacts must complete their isolation period and be able to pass the COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool before returning to school.”
The news comes as classes around the area are welcoming students after months of empty classrooms. Parents, educators and students have been stressed about returning due to a number of twists and turns to school plans this summer.
Hamilton’s medical officer of health previously said COVID-19 cases in local schools were bound to happen, but emphasized “we shouldn’t consider that a failure if that does happen because we are living in a world with COVID-19.”
Halton Public Health and Health and Social Services Haldimand and Norfolk did not immediately respond for comment. GEDSB and HDSB didn’t decrease class sizes or include mandatory masking for all students like Hamilton schools, but have other precautions including:
- Mandatory masking for GEDSB students in Grades 4 to 12 and for all staff (staff also have to wear eye protection or face shields). HDSB has mandatory masking for students between Grades 1 to 12.
- Incorporating regular hand-washing and/or hand-sanitizing into the school day.
- Adjusting HVAC systems in schools, opening windows and using fans to ventilate rooms.
- Placing signs and arrows around school to encourage physical distancing.
- Increasing cleaning and disinfecting of touch points, bathrooms and shared items.
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