Entire school in Windsor dismissed after COVID-19 outbreak declared
F.W. Begley Public School will close after three confirmed cases reported
The entire community at F.W. Begley Public School has been dismissed and is now considered high risk for COVID-19 after the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) declared an outbreak at the school. The school has approximately 365 students and 65 staff members.
The school has three confirmed COVID-19 cases and is the first school outbreak in Windsor since the pandemic started. In a news release, the Greater Essex County District School Board (GECDSB) said the entire school will have to isolate for 14 days unless otherwise directed by the health unit. The school board said it would send all parents and guardians a notice about the outbreak.
"The entire school is considered high-risk for exposure to COVID-19 and the WECHU is working closely with the school and the Greater Essex County District School Board (GECDSB) administrators to manage the outbreak, further limit the spread of infection, and ensure ongoing measures are maintained to protect students and employees," the release said.
The infectious period was Thursday, Nov. 12. An outbreak is declared if there are two or more cases at the school that are linked and if there is evidence that at least one case could have been infected at the school.
The school is located in Windsor's north, just south of Riverside Drive East.
"As always, we are working closely with public health and following their guidance," said Sharon Pyke, superintendent of education for GECDSB. "The health and safety of students and staff remains our priority and we continue to keep the school community informed and implement all health and safety protocols, including enhanced cleaning and disinfecting of the entire school."
First Windsor-Essex school outbreak
While Windsor-Essex has had an instance of more than one COVID-19 case at a school, this is the first time there's been transmission of the virus in a school setting.
Sarah Cipkar, a GECDSB trustee for the ward that the school is located in, said the outbreak comes as a surprise given the measures that have been put in place.
"I know that our staff and our teachers, our administration and everybody has been doing all that they can to ensure everybody's safety and you know with our numbers going up in the region I'm kind of surprised with that," she said.
"I think there was a lot of concern at the beginning of the year but over the last few months I feel like our staff has really demonstrated a strong commitment to safety and keeping both themselves and students safe, so this does come as a bit of a surprise at this time."
Cipkar continued to say that the board's administration has said students will continue to receive some type of learning or education while they are in quarantine and that staff are being equipped to switch their learning mode.
"It is essential for all staff and students to self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms every day. If you have any symptoms, go get tested," said Dr. Wajid Ahmed, WECHU medical officer of health.
The school board said that Ahmed and WECHU CEO Theresa Marentette would address the media about the outbreak in Wednesday morning's COVID-19 update. It added that it will not be disclosing further details about the cases or their close contacts due to privacy considerations.