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Upper Grand expresses concern with emerging COVID variants

Tuesday's board meeting passed a motion to call on the ministry of education to share definitive plans as the new COVID strain spreads
Martha Rogers, director of education at the Upper Grand District School Board speaks at the board meeting on Feb. 23, 2021.

The emerging COVID-19 variants are raising concerns in the Upper Grand District School Board.

Superintendent and trustees raised concerns about the lack of clarity in government plans during Tuesday's board meeting as the  B.1.1.7 variant spreads. 

“My fear is that we have sort of grown used to the fact that we are safe with our current protocols. I know kids will be kids. Teenagers will be teenagers. I just fear that we have been lulled perhaps into a false sense of security due to the original strain,” said trustee Mark Bailey.

“Our compliance behaviour may not be what is required for the more transmissible variants.” 

The UGDSB has had no outbreaks since it reopened. From Feb. 8 to Feb. 15, the board had nine cases of  COVID in students, one in staff. A total of 10 schools were affected and five classrooms were closed. 

The UGDSB currently has 19,600 out of 23,526 elementary students and 9,141 out of 11,167 secondary seconds enrolled in its in-person schools.

Bailey said class sizes, PPE, and ventilation are his biggest concerns as the emerging variant rises which is said to spread much quicker than the common strain of COVID-19. He said the ministry of education should really show leadership in those areas. 

Trustees expressed their concern regarding the enhancement of safety measures with masks. Martha Rogers, director of education at the UGDSB stated that the board is meeting with Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health frequently to discuss safety measures, mainly targeted testing and will also be speaking to Dr. Nicola Mercer, medical officer of health for at WDG Public Health.

“My preference would be that we go to small classes right now. My preference would be to do that right now. I understand that the ministry has not asked for it. Public Health has not asked for it. It's something I would want to do,” said Bailey. 

Rogers assured the board that it is prepared to pivot to an adaptive learning model if required by the ministry of education.

The board unanimously approved a new motion that calls on the  board to ‘direct the chair to write to the ministry of education to request that they share the government’s plan for the progression of the pandemic, specifically class size, PPE, and the emerging variants.’

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Anam Khan

About the Author: Anam Khan

Anam Khan is a journalist who covers numerous beats in Guelph and Wellington County that include politics, crime, features, environment and social justice
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