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1st elementary school in Ontario closes after students, staff test positive for COVID-19

An Ottawa elementary school has become the first in Ontario to close due to COVID-19 concerns after two staff members and two students tested positive.

Parents with children at Monsignor Paul Baxter Catholic School in Ottawa’s Barrhaven neighbourhood were notified about the closure on Saturday.

It’s also the first school to close in the nation’s capital.

Fellowes High School in Pembroke, Ont., became the first school in the province to close because of an outbreak of COVID-19 after staff members tested positive last week.

“Please know that we take our direction from Ottawa Public Health,” Mark Kennedy, principal of Monsignor Paul Baxter, said in a letter to parents and guardians. “We have been working closely with OPH since we learned of our first confirmed positive test result of COVID-19.”

Public health officials have notified parents, guardians and school staff of the positive tests. Close contacts of the individuals have also been contacted and will be provided further instruction about how and when to be tested, among other actions to take. 

Kennedy said a mobile COVID-19 test site exclusively for staff, students and family members would also be set up on the school’s grounds Monday and Tuesday.

The site will open Monday at 9:30 a.m. and Tuesday at 10 a.m., Kennedy said, and would run until 4 p.m. both days.

Closed for at least 2 weeks

In a French-language statement to Radio-Canada, OPH said it was “actively investigating” the outbreak at Monsignor Paul Baxter and that parents should be “prepared for a closure of two weeks or more.”

This is the eighth case of COVID-19 detected at a school run by the Ottawa Catholic School Board.

Two students at St. Leonard School in Manotick, one student at Holy Spirit School in Stittsville and one student at Holy Cross School near Mooney’s Bay have all tested positive for the virus. 

Monsignor Paul Baxter is the first school to shut its doors, however.

“Of course, we all want to do everything we can to help ensure our students’ and staff’s safety,” Kennedy wrote in the letter.

While the school remains closed, the principal said since the vast majority of students are healthy, the school wants them to continue learning online while at home.  

The board isn’t sharing information about the individuals who tested positive, citing privacy concerns.  

A spokesperson for Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce confirmed Monsignor Paul Baxter is the first elementary school in the province to close.

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