Hamilton

Student case of COVID-19 in Hamilton comes as local schools see positive tests

The city's first COVID-19 case in a student, days into classes reopening, also comes as schools across the region are seeing COVID-19 cases pop up.

COVID-19 cases pop up in students and staff in Hamilton and surrounding areas after reopening schools

Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board has its first case of COVID-19 after public health says a student tested positive on Friday. (Google)

Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board has its first case of COVID-19 after public health says a student at Bishop Tonnos Catholic Secondary School tested positive on Friday.

The case is one of several to arise in recent days as schools welcome back students, including one of a staff member at the day care attached to Templemead Elementary School.

A release from the city says HWCDSB and Hamilton Public Health are working to undergo contact tracing for the Bishop Tonnos student.

A letter to parents from the board says the student was last in school on Monday.

It's unclear what kind of symptoms the infected person has or had, where and/or how they got the virus, how long they may have exposed others and how many people have to isolate.

Pat Daly, HWCDSB chair, told CBC, the student's cohort and teacher will have to self-isolate. Beyond that, public health will determine who needs to self-isolate and for how long. The board takes care of cleaning and disinfection. Daly said that will start tonight or early tomorrow morning.

"We clearly understand the concern, anxiety of students, staff, parents and the broader community. We want to assure them we are following any and all directives, guidance from public health and the Ministry of Education, and that all actions to ensure the safety and well-being of our staff and students is being followed. I can assure them of that," he said.

He also said a case of COVID-19 while the virus is still out in the community is not surprising.

"If there's transmission in a community or wherever and a student or staff member travel, clearly this can happen."

This marks the city's first COVID-19 case in a student, days into schools reopening.

Schools across the region are seeing novel coronavirus cases appear. In addition to Bishop Tonnos and Templemead, the past few days have affected schools including:

INTERACTIVE | Use this map to find COVID-19 cases in local schools

As the Catholic board was about to send bad news to its families, some students in Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board were leaving school after learning of a COVID-19 case from Thursday.

Katherine and Elizabeth Johnson had an ordinary day of class on Friday at Templemead school on the east Mountain — except for the part where they learned through their friends that someone connected to the school day care program tested positive for COVID-19 the day before.

Tracy Johnson didn't know about the COVID-19 case at Templemead until a day later. She said the school should have put more information about the positive test result on-site. Despite that, her kids attended and said they had a normal day. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Tracy, their mother, didn't know about the case until she spoke with CBC after school. She said if she knew earlier, her kids wouldn't have gone to class at all.

Despite other families saying they received phone calls, online notifications or saw news coverage, Tracy said there was nothing at the school itself to indicate someone there had tested positive.

"Even to have a flyer or something or give us information [on site] so we're aware," she said.

"I could say, 'OK, if somebody is positive, then I probably won't' send my kids to school today.' "

Templemead School was the site of Hamilton's first COVID-19 case with ties to the local school system. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Her kids and others heard various versions of what happened. Some said staff also discussed the case with class, but here are the facts according to Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board and public health:

A staff member at the Umbrella Family and Child Centre before-and-after school program at the school tested positive on Thursday. The programs, for kids aged 18 months to 12-years-old, operates on the left side of the school.

The worker was last in the building on Monday. Public health and the public board are working through the case the same way the Catholic board is. Many of the same questions in the Bishop Tonnos case also remain unanswered in this situation.

Debra Pelletier, the school crossing guard, told CBC she saw half as many students at Templemead on Friday.

Kids like Sadie Vanveen had some concerns heading into her Grade 3 class.

"I was worried a little bit that I wouldn't be able to see my friends for a long time, but when we went back to school I felt better," she told CBC.

"It was fun … playing at a distance with my friends."

Her mother, Ainsley, said the school and the board has done a good job handling the situation.

Ainsley walked her son, Wyatt and her daughter, Sadie Vanveen, home from school at Templemead Elementary School. Sadie said she was worried she wouldn't be able to see friends. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Melissa Kuiper had some hesitation about sending Kearra, her Grade 6 daughter, to school. In the end, she felt there were more benefits than risks. Her daughter found out about the virus during class.

"I just didn't want her not to want to go. I think it's important for her to be in school," Kuiper said.

"If it was really serious, they would have closed the school by now … it's their duty to keep the students safe."

Melissa Kuiper didn't tell her daughter Kearra about the COVID-19 case at Templemead School to spare her anxiety. Kearra says she wishes she knew about the positive case earlier, but ultimately said her day at school was normal. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Attention parents, students and teachers: We want to hear from you!

We hope you'll use this form to tell us about school conditions, how classes are going or whatever other pressing issues are on your mind this September in Hamilton, Niagara, St. Catharines and Burlington.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bobby Hristova

Reporter/Editor

Bobby Hristova is a reporter/editor with CBC Hamilton. Email: bobby.hristova@cbc.ca

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