Parents and teachers in North York are expressing their worry after three elementary schools cancelled classes and dismissed staff and students this week due to an increase in COVID-19 cases.
St. Fidelis Catholic School has 15 active cases: 10 in students and five in staff members; St. John the Evangelist has three active cases among students with seven resolved and at St. Robert Catholic School there are three students and two staff members with active cases.
Nadia Zeppieri’s Grade 6 daughter Arianna, who attends St. Fidelis Catholic School, has been home all week learning on Google classroom after the school was dismissed this past Tuesday.
Zeppieri says she isn’t sure whether she will even send her daughter back once the school allows students and teachers back inside.
“Is she going to catch something, is she going to catch COVID? Is she going to get sick? How is this going to have an affect on her today, tomorrow and in the future?” a concerned Zeppieri asks.
Julie Altomare-DiNunzio, the president of Toronto Elementary Catholic Teachers, blames big classroom sizes for the spread. She says physically distancing is next to impossible.
“We’re still seeing classes in some areas with 28, 29, 30 students. This is a very big problem,” she says.
Altamore-DiNunzio suggests putting in-person classes on hold until cases subside.
“These are human beings. These are children. These are educators. They can potentially be compromising the well-being of their own families by bringing the virus home,” she says.
Teachers at St. Fidelis are also concerned. Lisa Pugliese, a Grade 4 teacher at the school, says she feels extremely stressed every day not knowing if her class will be dismissed. One of her students was among those who has tested positive with COVID-19.
“We are doing everything we can to follow Toronto Public Health guidelines. We are cleaning, separating everything …going above and beyond. My principal has lines painted so the kids don’t cross each other. It’s (COVID-19) still coming into the school and in large numbers, so I’m not sure what the answer is,” Pugliese says, adding she doesn’t feel comfortable coming into the classroom.
The Education Minister’s Office told CityNews Toronto Public Health is working closely with the Toronto Catholic District School Board to monitor cases at all affected schools. They also say dismissal of staff and students at these schools has been taken as a precautionary measure with the students shifting to remote learning for the duration of the dismissal.
“On Thursday, we took additional action by investing more funding in higher-risk regions, introducing targeted voluntary asymptomatic testing of students and staff, in addition to ensuring all students on the first day back in January are provided with a comprehensive refresher on COVID-19 protocols,” the Education Minister’s Office said.
In the latest data, Ontario schools are reporting 4,470 cases since school began. The numbers show 99 more students were infected – a total of 908 in the last two weeks. Since school began, the overall total number of cases is 2,769.
The data also shows 23 additional staff members have been infected for a total of 206 in the last two weeks and an overall total of 614.
There are currently 671 schools with a reported case of COVID-19 or 14 per cent of the 4,828 public schools in Ontario.
Six schools are currently closed due to an outbreak.