Omicron quarantine halts in-person classes at 2 London, Ont. schools

School desks classroom. File / Global News

Two London, Ont., schools are temporarily closing in-person learning until the new year after COVID-19 cases were linked to the Omicron variant.

The Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) made the decision to close Westmount Public School after numerous close contacts of a COVID-19 case with potential links to the Omicron variant were reported.

St. Andre Bessette, part of the London District Catholic School Board (LDCSB), also made the decision to temporarily halt in-person learning after a number of staff and students had to quarantine after multiple people were linked to a likely case of the new variant.

“This decision was made out of an abundance of caution to help ensure the health, safety and well-being of all 1,200-plus students and staff at the school,” a statement from LDSCB said.

Both school boards have sighted operational challenges with multiple classrooms being affected.

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With winter break only a week away, the school boards made the decision to switch to online learning until winter break ends and classes resume on Jan. 3, 2022.

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The TVDSB said families requiring technical support for students to access virtual learning are asked to contact the Westmount Public School office.

These two schools are just the latest in a number to close after being linked to the Omicron variant cluster.

As of last Thursday, the Middlesex-London Health Unit reported at least seven schools had been affected, including Princess Elizabeth School which halted in-person learning on Friday.

As of last week, a cluster of COVID-19 cases that involve the Omicron variant involved at least 50 cases and 18 households.

At least 31 schools in London and Middlesex were reported to have a total of roughly 70 active COVID-19 cases as of Monday, according to the health unit.

At least two local schools under Conseil Scolaire Catholique Providence are closed as a result of COVID-19 outbreaks.

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The health unit reported Monday that an outbreak had been declared at École élémentaire catholique Ste-Jeanne-d’Arc, linked to three cases, while an outbreak declared on Friday at École élémentaire catholique Saint-Jean-de-Brébeuf was now associated with nine active cases.

Both schools have been closed as a result of the outbreaks, according to the school board.

One case is also active at École élémentaire catholique Frère André.

It’s unclear if the cases are Omicron-related.

Ontario’s top doctor has said Omicron is expected to become the dominant strain within the next weeks, with this variant considered more transmissible than other variants.

Although more transmissible, health officials have said early indications have shown that it is not as severe.

It was two weeks ago that Ontario reported it had detected Canada’s first two Omicron cases. Since then, the variant has come to represent about 11 per cent of infections, according to the province’s expert pandemic advisory panel.

— with files from Global News’ Jacquelyn LeBel and The Canadian Press

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