Omicron variant found at 3 schools in Brandon

Three Brandon schools now have confirmed cases of the COVID-19 Omicron variant. 

4 classrooms were moved into remote learning after the cases were sequenced, school officials say

Children wear masks in a classroom in a file photo. (James Arthur Gekiere/Belga Mag/AFP/Getty Images)

Three Brandon schools now have confirmed cases of the Omicron variant of the virus that causes COVID-19. 

The Brandon School Division says four classes at three schools — Meadows, Linden Lanes and Riverheights — each have a confirmed case, while a suspected case is still being investigated at Vincent Massey High School. 

"It's not surprising that we would start to see cases in schools when we start to have cases in the community," said Brandon School Division superintendent Mathew Gustafson. 

"Were we anticipating it to come this early? We hoped that would not be the case" he said. "We have been preparing that we might see Omicron at some point." 

Gustafson said public health took an aggressive approach when the cases were first detected as Omicron variants, having additional correspondence sent home to families with students in the affected cohorts with instructions on isolation and testing. 

He said three of the affected classes that were sent to remote learning will return to in-class learning on Tuesday. 

"Our protective measures that we have employed continue to be our most valuable tools," said Gustafson, noting that no in-class transmission of the Omicron variant has been detected to date because of the division's rigorous stance on cleaning, testing, mask use and other precautions. 

"No protective measure eliminates the risk, we are just trying to reduce it," he said. "It is a good reminder for us to remain diligent, both in the schools and the community, to maintain those protective measures moving forward." 

Gustafson said discussions between school officials and public health take place after a positive case is identified on whether or not a classroom needs to shift to remote learning, or an entire school needs to close.

He said the decision in these cases was to move the affected classrooms to remote learning, but knows some parents and families might still feel uneasy. 

"We know that some of our parents are anxious and concerned and we understand and appreciate that," he said. 

"We provided … the opportunity to access remote learning if they wanted to take that opportunity, just to not have their children in the schools as we go through these last three days before the winter break." 

The last day of classes before winter break is on Wednesday in the Brandon School Division.