By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
COVID-19 cases are again rearing up in Chatham-Kent schools, putting a halt to face-to-face learning for a number of students and staff.
As of Monday, a total of six Chatham-Kent schools were affected, including McNaughton Avenue Public School; Tecumseh Public School; Victor Lauriston Public School; John McGregor Secondary School; Chatham-Kent Secondary School; and St. Anne Catholic School in Blenheim.
The first case in an unvaccinated student with the virus occurred two days into the school year at John McGregor, with a second student at the school now testing positive.
Two cases were confirmed at Victor Lauriston, according the Lambton Kent District School Board (LKDSB) webpage, as well as McNaughton, with the other schools having one case apiece.
As of press time it was unknown how many students and staff were isolating in relation to a possible exposure. CK Public Health will contact the parents or caregivers of a child that could be exposed if they are deemed to be at risk.
As of Monday the total number of active cases in the municipality rose to 140, with three active outbreaks.
In a municipal press conference last week, the education directors from Chatham-Kent’s two largest school boards expressed relief about returning to in-person learning.
According to St. Clair Catholic District School Board (SCCDSB) director Deb Crawford, a recent tour of local schools showed students and staff were complying with safety protocols.
Her comments were echoed by LKDSB director of education John Howitt, who said it was “wonderful” for everyone to be back in the classroom.
However, the hope may be fizzling in light of Monday’s setback.
Chatham-Kent Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Colby has said the stability of the coming school year lies in the number of people who step up to get the shot.
In a related matter, three Chatham-Kent high schools have been chosen to take part in a Ministry of Education pilot project whereby students are given take-home rapid antigen test kits if they have been identified as part of a high-risk cohort or a close contact of a case.
Ursuline College Chatham, Tilbury District Secondary School and Ridgetown District High School are part of the experiment, but the kits have yet to arrive.
However, Colby cautions that the voluntary testing has its limits, as a person could test negative in the morning and positive in the afternoon.
“We have to do better than that,” Colby said, adding a student’s return to school would be based factors other than the test.
In the meantime, CK Public Health is working hard to vaccinate students and their families by holding pop-up clinics at high schools across the district.
The general public is also welcome at the clinics as well.
On Sept. 17, an afternoon clinic will be held at Ridgetown District High School from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. for students and families and open to the general public from 4 to 7 p.m.
On Sept. 18, the Bradley Centre in Chatham will receive any from the general public for the shot from 9 a.m. to noon.
Next week, clinics will be held at high schools in Blenheim, Dresden, Chatham and Wallaceburg.
For a full list of clinic details please visit the CK Public Health webpage at https://ckphu.com/