'What more could be out there?' LDCSB reacts swiftly to possible Omicron threat
The director of the London District Catholic School Board (LDCSB) tells CTV News London his teams reacted 'swiftly' to the threat of the Omicron variant in three schools.
Vince Romeo says his board did not learn until the mid-afternoon Monday that it potentially had the new variant in its system.
Then on Monday evening, Romeo says the Omicron threat intensified.
“It wasn’t until late last evening when we realized just how many staff and students would be affected by this news.”
Middlesex-London Health Unit officials confirmed there are probable cases of the variant in the region.
The schools impacted are St. Marguerite d’Youville in northwest London, St. Nicholas in west London and St. Mary Choir and Orchestra school in the city’s Old East Village.
All the schools will be closed for the rest of this week. Students will continue classes remotely.
Not all parents and students received the late-night communication advising them to keep their children at home.
But the mother of St. Marguerite d’Youville student Rebecca Wijkoon did receive it.
Still, she and her daughter, a Grade 5 student, walked to the school on a cold morning to get a laptop for remote learning.
Rebecca tells CTV News London older students had heard talk of something concerning in the school late Monday.
“The school closed because I heard the people are sick from the COVID.”
Rebecca Wijkoon and her mother are seen leaving St. Marguerite d'Youville Catholic Elementary School on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021. The pair was picking up a laptop for at-home learning after the school was one of three closed due the potential threat of the COVID-19 Omicron variant. (Sean Irvine / CTV News)
Romeo says a high number of potential close contacts lead to the decision to close the school.
“So in our case, it was multiple schools over multiple classrooms affecting 1,300 students and multiple staff, upwards of 50 in our case.”
In recent months, vaccinated students continued to go to school if a few cases of COVID-19 entered a school.
But with the arrival of Omicron, Romeo says the response to the virus has again changed.
“The direction in this case with the new variant is, that regardless of your vaccination status, the quarantine period applies to all students and staff. That is different than what we’ve responded to in the past.”
London District Catholic School Board Director Vince Romeo is seen during a Zoom interview with CTV News London on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021.
And now, with the response focused on the present, there is some concern about the future.
Romeo admits putting three schools into remote learning so quickly has him concerned.
“In our case, the fact that our first call affected so many students and three schools all at one time. It’s enough to give us the thought of, ‘What more could be out there and what more do we need to respond to?’”
While the plan is for the three schools to reopen next Monday, Dec. 13, Romeo admits the LDCSB may alter the dates given the evolving situation in consultation with the MLHU.
Meanwhile, the Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) says that two schools have identified close contacts to possible Omicron cases.
Individuals at Princess Elizabeth Public School in London and Delaware Public School in Delaware are isolating.
The board has decided not to close those schools at this time.
- With files from CTV News London's Justin Zadorsky