Howitt voices concern as COVID-19 variant found at Brooke Central

John Howitt, Director of Education

All 214 Alvinston area students sent home for two weeks

John Howitt says the entire community is concerned after Lambton Public Health sent students from Brooke Central School near Alvinston home after a COVID-19 variant of concern was detected.

Six students at Brooke Central now have COVID-19. Lambton Public Health declared an outbreak after two of the six tests showed the presence of the variant.

All 214 students were sent home Wednesday. They’ll be taking online classes for the next two weeks.

Howitt, the director of education for the Lambton-Kent District School Board, says the outbreak is understandably causing concern about the children and their families who have COVID-19 and the possible spread of the virus.

“It’s the entire community, not just the school, schools are often a reflection of what’s going on within the community. And so we have been hearing concern, and a bit of frustration, from families as well,” he tells The Independent.

“You will often hear directors of education talking about first and foremost, our first concern is student safety and well being; that isn’t just a saying, We genuinely feel that right down to our heart. In every fiber, frankly‚Ķ.We want people to be safe and healthy.”

And Howitt admits it is also frustrating.

“For the five hours that we have students a day, we’re able to put all the protocols in place to help and it’s difficult to accept when the same level of diligence is not going on in the community. And that’s a frustration. And here is an example of where a couple of hundred families are impacted by a breakdown in protocols at some point.”

Lambton’s Medical officer of Health, Dr. Sudit Ranade, says the outbreaks in schools can be linked to recreational sports, like minor hockey. Late Wednesday, East Lambton Minor Hockey Association cancelled the remainder of its season because of COVID-19 cases among players and the need for teems to isolate.

Howitt says it is obvious people are tired of COVID-19 and are taking risks in the community.

“In my own household, we asked the question is accepting this invitation or doing this activity worth the impact it could have on our schools or to our neighbors? You know, I just really hope that people are being vigilant out there. We’re not through this yet. And the variance of concern brings that to another level.”

Howitt knows it is difficult to keep restricting the activities of children. “COVID fatigue includes the fatigue of having to say no, having to withhold things from our children, that in a normal scenario, we would love them to be able to do or participate. But we can’t stop saying no, yet.”

Thursday and Friday, Brooke Central staff will work from home while contract cleaners do a deep clean of the building.

“We thought it was important from a point of confidence with the community as well to take these two days to have the school that and do a deep clean with our custodial contractor, and then the building will be empty on Saturday and Sunday. And we’ll make a decision come Monday when we have additional information from public health.”

Howitt says the home learning sessions may continue past 14 days if public health believes there are more issues which could cause the spread of COVID-19.

There are more schools in the region dealing with COVID-19. There are seven students at St Peter Canisius who are COVID-19 positive. Public health says the virus was not spread in the school and it has not declared an outbreak there.

Three Corunna schools are also dealing with COVID-19 and LCCVI now has four students who are COVID-19 positive.