Ottawa schools will likely close after April break, top doctor says
FILE - AN empty teacher's desk is pictured at the front of a empty classroom at Mcgee Secondary school in Vancouver on Sept. 5, 2014. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)
OTTAWA -- Ottawa's top doctor is warning all elementary and secondary schools in Ottawa are “more likely than not” to close to in-person learning after the April Break, as COVID-19 transmission continues to rise in Ottawa.
"I am now thinking the probability that schools will close to in-person learning after the spring break is higher than the probability the COVID-19 situation will improve in time to keep schools open," said Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa's medical officer of health.
"My heart is heavy because I know how important schools are to the health of our community."
Etches says although there have been new COVID-19 outbreaks in schools this week, the overall number of outbreaks in schools has remained "stable."
Ottawa Public Health reported a record 242 cases of COVID-19 in Ottawa on Friday. The positivity rate is 9.2 per cent.
Etches says Ottawa Public Health will make a decision by next Wednesday on whether schools will reopen or close after the April Break.
Earlier this week, Etches told an Ottawa-Carleton District School Board meeting that "school is an essential service to children", and it needs to be the last thing to close.
But on Friday, the medical officer of health told reporters that the situation has since changed.
"The situation with transmission of COVID in schools is not out of control, and we do see that people testing positive are in the vast majority of case associated with someone who has been positive in the community," said Etches.
"However, the context has changed this week, which includes the level of COVID-19 in the community continuing to grow to levels higher than we've ever seen. It's demonstrated by the wastewater signal, again in a steep climb this week."
Etches says the COVID-19 statistics are "concerning."
A 28-day, provincewide stay-at-home order began Thursday at 12:01 a.m., closing non-essential businesses.
"This closes the malls and the places where children and youth might have gathered if not in schools, so that risk of gatherings outside of school is mitigated," Etches said. "So it does lead me to give notice of a school closure being more likely than not following the spring break, as we need to do everything can to turn this curve."
The delayed spring break for elementary and secondary schools in Ottawa and across Ontario will run from April 12 to 16.
As of Friday, there were 13 active COVID-19 outbreaks in elementary and secondary schools.
- St. Gabriel Elementary School
- St. Leonard Elementary School
- St. Isidore Elementary School
- Connaught Public School
- Fallingbrook Community Elementary School
- Sacred Heart High School
- École secondaire publique Louis-Riel
- Featherston Drive Public School
- Sawmill Creek Elementary School
- St. Dominic elementary school
- Ecome leemntary catholique De La Decouverte
- John McCrae Secondary School
- Ecole secondaire catholique Beatrice-Desloges
"Closing schools will underline the seriousness of the situation, and it will assist people to stay home as much as possible," said Etches.
OTTAWA CARLETON DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD
In a letter to parents and students Friday afternoon, the Ottawa Carleton District School Board said if schools are closed for in person learning after the April break, there would be no synchronous instruction with teachers on the first day.
The board tells families to "be prepared for the possibility" that students will be engaged in remote learning the week of April 19.
"If Ottawa Public Health declares all schools closed to in-person learning after the Break, April 19 would be an asynchronous learning day for all OCDSB students and staff," said the letter.
"This will allow for important transition planning time. There would be no scheduled synchronous instruction on that day. This will be confirmed should OPH announce school closures."