OCDSB forced to close some classes due to COVID-19, staff shortages

Active cases and staff shortages due to COVID-19 have forced the closure of a number classrooms in schools in Ottawa’s largest school board.

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) had 54 active student cases of COVID-19 and 14 staff cases as of mid-morning Wednesday. There were active student cases at nine intermediate and secondary schools, and 23 at elementary schools. 

According to Ottawa Public Health’s website, there are six open outbreaks at elementary schools and three at secondary schools.

OPH describes a school outbreak this way: two student or staff cases of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 within a specified class and a 14-day period where at least one case could have reasonably acquired the infection at school. 

Teacher shortages 

Hopewell Avenue Public School and Manor Park Public School are the only OCDSB schools that have been closed due to staff shortages Wednesday, the board says. 

“Neither of those schools have been declared outbreaks. However, we have had a number of staff listed as high-risk contacts from positive cases and have had to self-isolate,” a school board spokesperson said in an email.  

Manor Park was closed completely to in-person learning on Wednesday. A letter from the principal to parents said it was hoped the school would reopen Thursday, but the school board said it will now remain shut through Friday.

At Hopewell Avenue school, four classes were closed, effective Wednesday and through Monday. 

An emailed letter to parents with students at Hopewell Avenue school said contact tracing was done through OPH to determine high-risk contacts, and all the students and staff members involved have been informed and are now self-isolating. 

“There is no evidence to suggest that any of the confirmed cases at our school were transmitted at our school,” said the letter. “We have made every effort to replace staff members, but are unable to find sufficient replacement staff. For this reason, we must close a number of classes.

“We are working extremely hard to fill these positions with occasional teachers. Unfortunately, like other school boards, the OCDSB is facing a shortage of replacement staff.” 

Teachers will be in touch for remote learning plans, the letter added. 

OPH sent emails to parents and guardians of students at John McCrae Secondary School about a COVID-19 outbreak currently contained to Grade 10 classes. 

“The end date of the outbreak has not been established, but the outbreak group(s) may be closed for two weeks or longer,” says the email. 

Taking precautions

OPH said it will contact parents directly for further instructions if they or their children are identified as part of the outbreak group.

Parents and students who aren’t contacted by OPH don’t have to isolate or be tested. But it’s recommended that staff and students avoid visiting people who are older or have chronic illnesses for the duration of the outbreak. 

Staff and students who aren’t part of the outbreak should self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 each day before arriving at school. If they’re experiencing symptoms (such as fever, sore throat or body aches), they’re advised to visit a COVID-19 assessment centre, care clinic or drive-thru. 

Parents and guardians at other OCDSB schools have been sent emails identifying them as high-risk contacts. Parents have been told they shouldn’t send their children to school, unless advised otherwise by OPH, and to isolate.  

The letter said even if children don’t exhibit COVID-19 symptoms, all members of the household must stay home for the duration of the students’ self-isolation period, except for essential reasons, such as:

  • Going to work, school or child care.
  • To get groceries.
  • For medical appointments and picking up prescriptions.

If symptoms develop, members of the household should get COVID-19 testing. 

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