Rapid tests deployed to prevent school-wide dismissal at Southridge Public School

Officials at Southridge Public School in Kitchener are asking all asymptomatic and unvaccinated students to undergo rapid antigen testing, following a COVID-19 outbreak at the school on Thursday.

The province’s new Test-to-Stay approach has been implemented to prevent a school-wide dismissal, said a spokesperson with the Waterloo Region District School Board in a statement to CTV News.

“Through this initiative, asymptomatic, unvaccinated students who have not been directed to self-isolate by Public Health will complete frequent rapid antigen screening over a 10-day period,” said Eusis Dougan-McKenzie, Chief Communications Officer at WRDSB. “Those who test negative will be able to continue in-person learning.”

Rapid tests were sent home with students Thursday afternoon.

A father with two children at Southridge P.S. spoke with CTV Thursday evening.

Chris Roth said parents like him are frustrated because his own children have been in and out of school due to positive cases since the end of October.

“It’s certainly frightening for us. I worry about myself bringing COVID into my place of employment with over 200 employees. It’s challenging,” said Roth via a virtual interview. “And then trying to figure out when we can actually send these kids back to school safetly.”

According to a notice issued by the Waterloo Region District School Board, officials determined a student case is in the same cohort that had cases earlier this week.

On Nov. 28, five student cases were reported at Southridge P.S.

Officials say the outbreak is related to this single cohort and is not a school-wide outbreak.

However, Dougan-McKenzie noted there are six classroom cohorts currently dismissed out of 20 at Southridge P.S.

The Test-To-Stay strategy has been recommended because “of the number cohorts that are dismissed, increase in cases, and looking at transmission and linkages of current cases,” said Sharon Ord from the Waterloo Region Public Health Unit. “This program is being offered to help keep schools open, prevent spread in schools and an additional tool for parents to screen their child prior to attending school.”

The public health unit along with school board officials are urging as many families as possible to take part in the testing program.

The WRDSB is working with public health to distribute testing kits and instructions to parents.