St. Benedict school reopens following closure due to COVID-19 outbreak

Students at St. Benedict Catholic Elementary School are back in class after the school was closed due to the city’s worst COVID-19 outbreak this fall.

While many students are excited for the return of in-person learning, their parents are concerned it could happen again.

The school was closed on Sept. 28, following an outbreak of COVID-19, which affected 37 students across many of the grades and classes.

The Ottawa Catholic School Board is reporting through its COVID-19 dashboard that there are no longer any active cases at the school. But still, for many of the parents whose children attend class at St. Benedict, there is a concern that an outbreak could happen again.

“I’m a little nervous but, at the same time, I know that it’s probably the best place for them to learn,” says Chrissy Galanakis, walking her two sons, John and Zackary, to the entrance gate. “At-home learning is not the best for us, so I’m happy for them to be back at school and learning and it’s the best place for their own mental health … We’re just trying to balance safety with what’s best for our family and I think we’re all just excited for them to be back in a relatively, hopefully, safe space.”

The OCSB says that, as an added measure, students at St. Benedict are now required to wear masks outside during recess, adding that this rule is above the provincial regulation.

Ottawa Public Health requires students at all schools to complete an online COVID screening questionnaire ahead of class each day and, as an added layer of protection, for the next two weeks, students will need to bring a paper copy to class every morning.

In all outbreak situations, OPH says it completes a thorough investigation and site inspection. Following its investigation at St. Benedict’s School, the report found that all proper infection control measures, including cleaning, disinfection and signage, have been reviewed with the school administration to make sure that best practices are in place to prevent COVID-19 transmission.

However, parent Maya Al Alami is concerned that there not enough classrooms for all the students.

“My child in Grade 4, he is in a portable and he switches portables and the kids do switch in his portable,” she says. “The solution is to minimize the number of kids in the classes; my kids sit with three other kids so it’s hard to trace it.”

All schools in the capital can provide PCR tests for staff and students who develop symptoms of COVID-19 or who are deemed a high-risk contact. The kits are available to complete at home and can be dropped off outside the school the next day where they are returned to an assessment centre for results. Parents and students can also contact an assessment centre to book an appointment.