COVID-19: 3 more schools closed in Dufferin-Peel Catholic board totaling 10

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MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — A shortage of teachers due to COVID-19 outbreaks forced a board west of Toronto to close three more elementary schools to in-person learning Friday, bringing the total number of its shuttered facilities to 10.

The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board said it shifted the schools to remote learning because new, stricter public health rules meant to curb the spread of contagious COVID-19 variants have forced numerous teachers into self-isolation.

Read more: Doug Ford says he is open to loosening some dining, gym rules in Toronto and Peel Region

“The temporary absence of this many staff and the challenges in securing occasional teachers to provide staffing relief in the short term, has placed considerable pressure on our ability to provide safe supervision and to maintain operations in an in-person environment at our school,” said Bruce Campbell, a spokesman for the board.

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The new rules provide what Campbell described as an “extra layer of protection,” and require those who have even limited contact with classes to self-isolate if they may have been exposed to COVID-19.

That includes French teachers and others, he said.

None of the three schools shuttered Friday — San Lorenzo Ruiz, St. Cornelius and St. John the Baptist — have more than two confirmed cases, the board said.

St. Sofia School in Mississauga, Ont., which is among the schools that have been closed for longer, is reporting a larger outbreak. Ten students and five staff members are ill with COVID-19.

Campbell did not say when the schools would be able to reopen their doors.

“We have switched these schools to remote learning until such time that a sufficient number of teachers have completed their self-isolation period and we are able to once again provide safe supervision and operations for in-person learning,” he said in an email.

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More than a dozen of the board’s other schools have sent entire classrooms home due to the virus.

The local chapter of the union representing teachers at the board said an elementary teacher is “seriously ill in hospital, having contracted COVID.”

“It is our understanding that the illness was contracted at work,” the local chapter of the union said in an email to teachers.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to this family. We also know that other staff and students have been impacted and we also keep them in our thoughts and prayers.”

Read more: Toronto Public Health found private school broke COVID-19 lockdown rules: leaked report

The Ministry of Education said 38 of the 4,828 schools across Ontario are currently closed due to the virus, while 908 schools are reporting at least one case of COVID-19.

The ministry has repeatedly said that schools are not a driving force behind the spread of COVID-19, and cases instead reflect the virus’s presence in the community.

But the union that represents Ontario’s Catholic teachers rejected that argument.

“The outbreaks of COVID-19 we are seeing in school communities in Peel region and elsewhere clearly show that the Ford government has not done enough to protect the health and safety of students and staff,” said Liz Stuart, president of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association.

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The union has been calling for greater physical distancing and better ventilation in classrooms since September.

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