Quaker Road Public School, Welland. GOOGLE

Most infections in school system; Nine classrooms closed for cleaning

In a statement released Sunday evening, March 7, the District School Board of Niagara (DSBN) announced a further five positive COVID cases at the Quaker Road Public School, in Welland.

This brings the total number of known infections at the school to 11. A steady stream of infections has been reported at the facility starting from March 1. Public Health does not disclose personal information, so it is unknown whether the infections are among students, staff, or both.

“As part of COVID-19 case management and infection control protocol, students and staff who had close contact with the individuals have been contacted and told by Niagara Region Public Health (NRPH) to stay home and self-isolate,” said the statement.

The DSBN said that NRPH had “assessed the situation and recommended that the school remain open.”

The Quaker Road school has by far the largest number of active cases in the school system, which is comprised of 79 elementary schools and 20 secondary schools across the 12 municipalities of Niagara. According to the board’s COVID public advisory webpage, six schools have one case each, and three schools have two cases each.

Concerned parents of students in the school expressed dismay that the campus was not being closed.

“I think the school board should close the school for two weeks,” parent Laureli Veldhuizen told the Voice.

“By not closing the school, the board is putting the health of the staff and students at risk. As we have seen this past year, virtual teaching is not ideal or easy, but for two weeks I believe it is the right thing to do. It is important that the school board listens to and acts upon the concerns of parents and the staff that are on the front lines caring for our children.”

Pelham’s DSBN Trustee Nancy Beamer told the Voice that school attendance is optional.

“We have to follow Public Health guidelines but parents have the option of keeping their children home if they do not feel it is safe,” she said.

Health authorities encourage “everyone in the Quaker Road school community to do their daily active screening and to stay home if they exhibit even one symptom of COVID-19.”

The Quaker Road school has by far the largest number of active cases in the school system

“We are working with NRPH to make sure we are doing everything we can to make sure Quaker Road is a safe learning environment, including voluntary asymptomatic testing when recommended by Public Health,” said DSBN Chief Communications Officer Kim Sweeney. “We will continue to work collaboratively with NRPH to ensure our school meets all the proper health and safety protocols.”

Sweeney said that Facility Services will complete a thorough cleaning of the school, and students and staff will continue with preventative practices such as wearing PPE, physical distancing, hand hygiene, and daily health screening.

Sweeney added that additional questions about COVID-19 can be directed to Niagara Region Public Health for assistance from a Public Health Nurse on the COVID-19 Info-Line, which is staffed Monday to Friday, 9:15 AM – 8:30 PM, and Saturday and Sunday, 9:15 AM  – 4:15 PM at 905-688-8248 or toll-free at 1-888-505-6074.