Ottawa Valley school first to close in Ontario following COVID-19 outbreak

Health officials have shut down an Ottawa-area high school after a third staff member tested positive for COVID-19 — making it the first school in Ontario to close since the new school year began.

Classes at Fellowes High School halted Wednesday after 3rd staff member tests positive

Fellowes High School in Pembroke, Ont., is the first school in Ontario to have been ordered closed until further notice after a third case of COVID-19 was linked to two previous cases among staff. (Hugo Belanger/CBC)

Health officials have shut down a high school in the Ottawa Valley after a third staff member tested positive for COVID-19 — making it the first school in Ontario to close since the new school year began.

All in-person classes at Fellowes High School in Pembroke, Ont., were halted Wednesday after the latest case was linked to two previous ones, also involving staff members.

In an emailed statement to CBC News, Renfrew County District School Board spokesperson Jonathan Laderoute said the closure will remain in place until further notice.

"The decision was made shortly after a third case was confirmed earlier today that was linked to two previous cases," the email reads. "The school will reopen only with public health approval." 

The board had been preparing for the possibility of an outbreak, says director of education Pino Buffone. 

WATCH | Fellowes High School first in the province to close:

3 linked COVID-19 cases cause closure of Pembroke high school

2 years ago
Duration 0:57
Pino Buffone, director of education for the Renfrew County District School Board, says the decision by health officials to shut down Fellowes High School was a wise one after three staff members tested positive for COVID-19.

"We thought that a case somewhere in our school boards across the province would be inevitable so it isn't something that has caught us entirely off guard," Buffone told CBC Ottawa.

Despite the closure, Buffone said he doesn't think the outbreak could have been prevented if schools had opened later. 

"I don't think we as a district ... could have planned any more thoroughly for the startup," he said.

There are about 650 students and 55 staff at the school.

The school board says students will continue learning online, and are asked to check their email for instructions from their teachers.

"The well-being and safety of our students and staff is top priority during this pandemic period and the district will continue to support public health staff in any way we can as they continue to investigate," Laderoute wrote.

Buffone said the county's acting medical officer of health ordered the closure.

"I think it's a wise decision," he said. 

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