COVID-19 outbreak declared at Winnipeg's Collège Louis-Riel

Health officials have declared an outbreak of COVID-19 cases at Winnipeg's Collège Louis-Riel. It's the fourth such declaration at a school in Manitoba, but marks the first time a school has been closed since September.

1st school in province to be shut down due to outbreak of cases

A COVID-19 has led to a full shutdown at Winnipeg's Collège Louis-Riel, which becomes the first Manitoba school to close due to an outbreak. (Collège Louis-Riel/Facebook)

Health officials have declared an outbreak of COVID-19 cases at Winnipeg's Collège Louis-Riel — the fourth such declaration at a Manitoba school, but one that marks the first time a school has been closed since September.

The St. Boniface-area school now has eight confirmed cases, with the first announced Sept. 22.

The outbreak announcement was made in a letter to parents on Wednesday from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, which said investigations are now happening to determine if the virus was transmitted at school.

"It is because of these investigations that this situation is deemed an outbreak, which will place the school at orange on the Manitoba pandemic response system," the WRHA letter stated.

The latest cases impact six cohorts in the school, in which individuals may have been infectious:

  • Grade 7-2, Room 222.
  • Grade 9A, Room 104.
  • Grade 10A, Room 107.
  • Grade 10B, Room 108.
  • Grade 10C, Room 103.
  • Grade 10D, Room 105.

Public health has advised students and staff in those six cohorts to start self-isolation as of Oct. 28. Another four cohorts, involving prior cases, are already in quarantine up to and including Nov. 5.

The WRHA letter was sent out the same day the Division scolaire franco-manitobaine, which includes Collège Louis-Riel, told parents the school would be shut down for at least a week in order to minimize the risk of further transmission.

Starting immediately, students will work remotely from home until an expected return to classes on Nov. 9, states a notice from the school division.

"Recent results from Winnipeg regional health indicate that there is an increasing number of reported cases in the area, and although although the vast majority of these cases come from outside our schools, they end up having and impact on our students and our staff," DSFM superintendent Alain Laberge said in the notice.

"In particular, we note a resurgence of cases at Collège Louis-Riel."

The notice urges everyone to limit interactions with people outside their homes "so that together we can work to ensure a return to school as soon as possible."

School outbreaks

Outbreaks were declared last week at Bird's Hill School, just north of Winnipeg, and at Arborgate School in La Broquerie, southeast of the city.

There were five cases within two classrooms at Bird's Hill School, according to the River East Transcona School Division. In response, the school added new distancing restrictions, while parents were also given the option of remote learning for their kids.

At Arborgate School, one kindergarten class and two combined grades 1-2 classes were shifted to remote learning, while new distancing restrictions were enforced for those remaining at the school.

At least 20 people infected with COVID-19 were linked to an outbreak at John Pritchard School in Winnipeg last month. The K-8 school shifted about 250 students to remote learning but never went into a full closure.

That outbreak has since been declared over.

Rally for teachers

A car convoy on Thursday, decked out with banners and balloons, did a drive-by at several Winnipeg schools to show support for teachers and school staff.

It was part of a day of action organized by organized by Safe September, a group of parents, teachers, staff and community members who have raised concerns about what they call the provincial government's "inadequate safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools."

A car convoy drove past a number of Winnipeg schools on Thursday to show support for teachers and school staff and call on the government for more resources to keep schools safe. (Patrick Foucault/CBC)

The group is calling on Manitobans to contact their elected representatives and demand more resources for schools to hire extra teachers, reduce class sizes, and provide publicly funded remote learning opportunities for the duration of the pandemic for all families who want that option — with teachers assigned specifically for that purpose.

"Teachers' workloads are at least doubling, if not tripling, with the implementation of new public health orders this week in Winnipeg," said Safe September representative Lauren Hope. 

"The Pallister government must eliminate red tape and spend the federal money allocated for schools now."

The convoy was organized by the group Safe September, which says it is "deeply concerned about the Manitoba provincial government's strategy of employing inadequate safety measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in schools." (Patrick Foucault/CBC)

She said teachers trying to keep students, and themselves, safe are struggling with "inadequate resources, ever-changing and inconsistent protocols, large class sizes, unmanageable workloads, and new teaching demands."

The group has received dozens of letters, pictures, and pleas from Manitoba teachers and school staff asking for help in amplifying those concerns, Hope said.

The convoy drove past Laura Secord School, Daniel McIntyre Collegiate, Churchill High School, John Pritchard School, Dufferin School, Constable Edward Finney School and Governor Semple School.

A spokesperson for Education Minister Kelvin Goertzen said the government's pandemic response "has focused on the safety and health of students, staff, and families while ensuring reasonable measures are in place to minimize the risk of transmission and exposure to the virus in school settings.

"Our government previously announced the $100 million Safe Schools funding to support school divisions in a variety of ways, and while government does not hire teachers, it is working closely with school divisions as they recruit additional staff based on their demands and needs."