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Toronto school board confirms first case of COVID-19 in a student


The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) confirmed that a student had tested positive for COVID-19 on the first day back for in-person classes for many secondary schoolers.

According to a letter sent to parents shared with the Star, the York Memorial Collegiate Institute announced Thursday that one of their students had tested positive for the virus.

“We have no reason to believe there is any cause for concern for students and their families as this student was very briefly at the school on Monday, was not at school today and will not return until cleared by TPH,” wrote Donna Drummond, principal of the public secondary school, in the letter.

As of Thursday, eight schools have announced COVID-19 cases in the Toronto region. All have one case each. Seven are staff members, and one a student.

TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird told the Star that, while Toronto secondary schools are opening their doors to all students on Thursday, students in Toronto’s Special Education Congregated Sites and Intensive Support Programs began their classes earlier on Tuesday.

The affected student went to school “briefly” on Monday before the start of full-time classes, Bird said.

The school is “working closely with Toronto Public Health (TPH) with regard to this case,” according to Drummond’s letter.

“As a precaution, an enhanced cleaning was conducted in the impacted areas but no further steps have been advised by TPH at this time,” Drummond said.

However, because the case was discovered before the first day of class, parents won’t be getting a letter from Toronto Public Health, she continued.

“We just wanted to let you know about this particular case as it must be reported to the Ministry of Education and Toronto Public Health.”

Alexander Brown, chair of the TDSB, said it’s not unexpected that there is a student case of COVID-19, and said the board continues to follow Toronto Public Health’s lead.

Local health units have the power to shut down schools if there are multiple, linked cases. That happened in Renfrew County on Wednesday after three staffers contracted the virus, forcing Fellowes High School in Pembroke to close until further notice.

Given the higher numbers of COVID-19 cases in urban centres such as Toronto, “parents are worried ‘is there going to be an outbreak at my school?’ Brown said. “Our concern at the TDSB — and it’s the concern of every board — is to keep the health and safety of kids and everyone in the building our priority, whatever that takes.”

Experts said earlier that it’s expected for schools to report COVID-19 cases as soon as they reopen. This doesn’t indicate in-class spread, but rather community cases from before classes reopened.

Earlier in August, several Ontario teachers unions advocated for smaller class sizes, including plans to shrink elementary classes down to 15 or 20 students. However, the Province struck down the idea.

Leslie Wolfe, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation in Toronto, told the Star: “I’m concerned for the wellbeing of students. I’m very concerned for the wellbeing of the adults who work with the students,” she said. Several of her union members are older, she continued, and Wolfe is “concerned for their health.

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“I don’t think anyone will be surprised at the fact that there is a student case in the city of Toronto,” she said. “And I expect this will not be a one-off.”

—With files from Kristin Rushowy

Kevin Jiang





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