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Boards plan deep cleaning of schools amid COVID-19 concerns

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Students left their schools on March 13 knowing they won’t be back in the classroom until April as a precautionary measure to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Ontario government announced that all publicly funded schools across the province would be closed for the two weeks following the March Break, meaning they will be closed from March 14 to April 5.

In a statement on Friday afternoon, Wilfrid Laurier University, which has a campus in the city, announced there will be no more in-person instruction for students for the remainder of the 2020 term.

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In a statement Friday, Kimberly Newhouse, manager of communications for the Grand Erie District School Board, said the closures were made as a result of recommendations by Ontario’s chief medical officer of health.

The closure includes all adult, alternative and continuing education programs offered through Grand Erie, including Grand Erie Learning Alternatives.

In addition, all childcare and before- and after-school programs have been cancelled, along with all school permits and community use of school permits.

Rick Petrella, chair of the Brant Haldimand Norfolk Catholic District School Board, said they would be “doing everything that we can to ensure that all schools and offices are clean and safe for everyone upon return” on April 6.

“We have scheduled deep cleaning of all schools and offices using appropriate and effective products. After that, access to sites will be limited to pre-determined authorized staff only. Staff, who are able, will be working remotely ensuring that the back-end business of the board continues.”

Newhouse said a deep cleaning will be done in all Grand Erie Schools prior to students returning.

Petrella said he understands that finding child care may be difficult for some families.

“I want to express my gratitude for your understanding and patience as we navigate through this pandemic. We have faith that everyone will do their part to ensure that, as a district, we are being as socially responsible as possible and mitigating the risk of further spread of COVID-19.”

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Deborah MacLatchy, president and vice chancellor, said next week Laurier instructors will develop a plan for alternative instruction and assessment so that students can earn their credits. While university buildings will remain open and facilities, such as the library, recreation centres, food services, and health services will be operational.

The university is working through contingency planning for final exams and more information will be released in the coming days, said MacLatchy.

University residences will also remain open but all students who have the option of going home are being encouraged to do so. University staff will continue to work with international students to determine the best course of action to complete their term.

“To our students, I’m sorry that you’re going through this stressful and unsettling experience,” said MacLatchy. “Laurier’s services and programs will stay open to support you. Please continue to communicate with our staff and faculty about your challenges and needs. These are the most significant adjustments Laurier has had to make in its history and our response to this health crisis will continue to improve.”

The Ontario government said in a statement on March 12 that the move to close schools is “necessary to keep people safe” and is based on the advice of Dr. David Williams, Ontario chief medical officer of health.

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