Even as Ontarians are told to strictly limit attendance at Thanksgiving dinners this year, many high school students still crowd outside fast food restaurants each lunch hour.

The Thames Valley District school board says it doesn’t have the authority to police students once they leave school property.

“We do not have the mandate to prevent them, or police their behaviour, when they’re off school grounds, explains Director of Education Mark Fisher. “But certainly we reinforce with them the necessity of physical distancing, proper hand hygiene, and wearing masks.”

On Tuesday, a student attending Saunders Secondary School was diagnosed with COVID-19. The student’s teacher and classmates were sent to quarantine at home.

For the second day in a row, meanwhile, CTV News has witnessed other Saunders students going to nearby fast food restaurants to mingle with friends who belong to other classroom bubbles.

Having students bubbled in separate classes is intended to minimize the number of close contacts they experience each day.

The TVDSB encourages students to stay at school for lunch where distancing can be monitored, but their authority ends at the property line.

“Coming back to school has inherent risk. Our strategies are all around risk mitigation. We’ve done everything we can following Ministry of Education and public health guidelines,” says Fisher.

“I’ve been in a number of schools over the past couple of weeks, and while they’re in school they are really following all those health and safety protocols,” he adds.

A student spending his lunch with friends from other classroom groups admits, however, once they’re on lunch COVID-19 precautions get relaxed.“They (teachers) say stay six feet apart, but not a lot of people obey to that rule.”