Two Montreal schools shut down this week due to COVID-19 outbreaks

At least two Montreal elementary schools were shut down this week due to outbreaks of COVID-19. 

The first closure that was confirmed happened at the Sainte-Odile Elementary School, located on Depatie Street in Ahuntsic-Cartierville, after all 530 students were sent home due to what the school described as “several” infections. The school did not provide the number of cases. 

In a letter sent to parents on Monday and obtained by CTV News, the school said the closure will last until Sept. 24. 

A virtual-classwork system hasn’t yet been fully implemented. 

To ensure the school’s 530 students don't miss out on class work, those who needed computers to do work from home have now received them and virtual follow-ups will start tomorrow, said Alain Perron, a spokesperson from the school service centre.

Perron also confirmed Wednesday evening that a second school, École Saint-Émile in Rosemont, will close this week due to a coronavirus outbreak. No other details were released. 

The closures come as rapid testing appears to be ramping up in Quebec schools. 

The education ministry said in an email to CTV News that rapid testing kits were delivered to school service centres in the Montreal area last week.

"It is up to them to distribute the tests to the schools concerned, including Sainte-Odile," said ministry spokesperson Bryan St-Louis. 

"Schools will be able to begin administering the tests before the end of the month, once they are ready. 

The English Montreal School Board, which has one school in a designated hot zone, said Wednesday they have not yet rolled out rapid testing. 

Rapid tests in schools are being rolled out to 10 regions in Quebec as infections driven by the more transmissible Delta variant continues to rise, but Dr. Donald Vinh, an infectious disease specialist with the McGill University Health Centre, said it is just one tool in curbing the spread of the virus. 

"Could rapid testing have prevented the closure of [Sainte-Odile]? Perhaps, but I think we have to take a step back and say: could masking, and distancing, and bubbling or cohorting have prevented this?" he said, adding that these basic measures, if properly enforced, are proven methods at preventing cases from spreading. 

"Rapid testing has a lot of advantages, but it needs to be used properly."

Schools need to decide how teachers, who are being tasked with administering the tests, will use them -- whether it's for diagnosing a symptomatic student or for testing as a preventative measure, he said.

"You need to think about this and map out those strategies and train the schools ahead of time before you find yourself in deep waters."

The Coeur-Immacule elementary school in Sherbrooke, Que. also closed down Monday, as hundreds of schools have had COVID-19 infections so far during the fourth wave of the pandemic and have sent home classrooms. 

Most children at that school were permitted to return Wednesday, school officials say, with the exception of eight groups that must remain in isolation.

At Sainte-Odile, public health is asking all parents to bring their kids for COVID-19 tests, even if they aren’t considered high-risk, and to notify the school when the test is complete and when the results come back.

While the closure is only expected to last through Friday, the letter to parents assured them that children who are infected or deemed high-risk will be required to do a longer quarantine period. 

  COVID-19 CASES IN QUEBEC
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