'Schools are in crisis': Concern grows over rising COVID cases in Ottawa schools
OTTAWA -- As concern grows about rising COVID-19 cases in schools across the capital, some experts are suggesting it could be time to take strict action to limit the spread of the virus.
One Ottawa school board says case levels in schools are higher now than they've been all year.
"With Ottawa now having rising case numbers and going into the red zone, and these new variants in play, a lot of us feel unsafe in the classroom," said Allison Van Diepen, a teacher with the Ottawa Carleton District School Board.
"I don’t know how, with the third wave as it is, schools are going to stay open with all these staffing challenges and so much COVID in the schools," said Van Diepen.
In an email to parents Friday afternoon, the Ottawa Carleton District School Board said, "The current school case numbers are at the highest levels we have seen all year. New COVID variants are increasingly reported in our community and have been identified in Ottawa schools."
"This is creating serious staff shortages. Over the last week, several OCDSB schools have had to pivot to remote learning."
"It seems to me that schools are in crisis at the moment," said epidemiologist Dr. Raywat Deonandan.
"Strictly speaking from a disease control perspective, it’s time to think about closing down some schools again," he added.
According to data from the four major schools boards in the capital, there are currently 165 active cases in Ottawa schools, two schools are fully closed, and 66 classrooms have been shut down.
"The threat here is that the greater transmission that will happen in schools will leak over to adults, into your parents and grandparents, so that hasn’t changed in fact it has become more dire," said Dr. Deonandan.
In a statement to CTV News Ottawa Friday afternoon, Ottawa Public Health said, "This increase has been most pronounced in the last three weeks along with rising case counts in the broader community."
So while the impact of new variants and rising cases in the community is taking a toll on schools, it leaves teachers and parents concerned about what is next.
"It’s really hard on kids, you know you see the joy in their faces when they’re going back to school and then they have to be home again whether it’s for two weeks or a random day here and there, it’s a lot of uncertainty and I wish we could avoid this situation," said Van Diepen.