Kitchener Elementary School Closes After COVID-19 Outbreak Was Declared | The Canadian News

Waterloo Public Health says it is ordering a school in Kitchener to be closed due to a COVID-19 outbreak, which has moved nearly 350 students to online learning.

Beginning Wednesday, Blessed Sacrament Catholic Elementary School on The Country Way near Bleams Road will be closed to in-person learning for at least 10 days.

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“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 Health Officer, in a statement.

“We are closing a school for the first time since the return to classroom learning this fall due to concerns about the possibility of rapid and widespread transmission of the virus.”

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There are 19 confirmed COVID-19 cases at the school that have resulted in multiple cohort layoffs, public health said.

Dr. Emili later confirmed during a press conference that all the cases are from students and there have been no reports of any children being seriously ill.

He also added that there has been some spread among vaccinated students.

“This is not unusual. The vaccine definitely lowers the risk of getting COVID, but it doesn’t completely eliminate it, ”Dr. Emili said.

“So in situations where there may be more than one person who has COVID or where there is prolonged close contact, such as what we would see in the school setting, it is not unusual to have that, although the vast majority are not vaccinated, given the fact that most students would still not be eligible for vaccination “

At least 140 people have also been classified as high-risk contacts.

Waterloo Catholic District School Board education director Loretta Notten said they called for the closure of the school of public health.

“We believe this is a precautionary step and will only give our community the confidence that when their children return to school, it will be in a very healthy and safe environment,” Notten said.

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“We know we have the ability to provide online learning in the meantime, so learning doesn’t have to be interrupted, and it just ensures that we don’t have more families than necessary to be impacted by COVID.”

Notten said the board is using Wednesday as a “pivot day” to ensure students can access their classrooms online from home and that everyone should be ready by Thursday morning.

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Public health also recommends rapid antigen testing as part of its plan to return to school and said it will work with school officials to distribute the test kits to families.

“The rapid antigen test will be offered to students when they return. All students to be offered will not have active symptoms. They will not be vaccinated and they will also have completed all their periods of isolation, ”Dr. Emili said, adding that rapid tests will be considered an additional safety measure for students returning to in-person learning.

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“It will be optional and we will work with our school board colleagues at the school itself to help with the distribution of those test kits.”

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The school closure comes just two days before the region begins vaccinating children ages five to 11 with Pfizer’s childhood vaccine.

The region’s vaccination task force hopes to have a needle in all arms of the age group by Christmas.

—With files from Kevin Nielsen of Global News

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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