WINDSOR, ONT. -- St. Joseph’s Catholic High School will be closed until further notice as of Wednesday due to a COVID-19 outbreak declared by the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit.

According to WECHU, there are currently five confirmed cases of the virus at the school with the most recent exposure date of Sept. 9. The entire school community has been dismissed as a precaution and the school will remain closed until further notice.

“Based on the level of spread in our community, it is necessary to excuse students in order to limit the potential for spread in this setting. We are actively working to investigate cases tied to this school and provide guidance to those directly impacted” said Nicole Dupuis, Chief Executive Officer at the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit.

All students, staff and visitors who were in attendance from Tuesday, Sept. 7 to Thursday, Sept. 9 and have not already been identified as a close contact through a previously dismissed cohort have been directed to get tested for the virus.

“It’s frustrating. We were happy that they were getting into a routine again. He does better in school,” says Colleen Watson-Ruckle, who has a son in grade 10.

At times, he receives one on one learning at the school, but that won’t be available when he moves to online learning.

“The kids have had so much damage. They’ve suffered so much from this," Watson-Ruckle said. "Their personality has changed. They’ve lost friends. I just hope they get back to the classroom.”

WECHU says it is working with the school and the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board (WECDSB) administrators to manage the outbreak, limit the spread of infection and ensure health measures are maintained.

“It was concerning, a little bit disappointing that this early in the year we did have to make that transition,” says Stephen Fields, communications coordinator for the WECDSB.

Fields said a team of nurses was at the school Wednesday to help facilitate the process of dismissing students.

“They were told basically told to take whatever belongings that they had with them that would help them facilitate to online learning,” he said.

Fields said a follow up message will be sent to students who weren’t in attendance on Wednesday.

“Letting them know that we are going to make arrangements for devices for students who may not have them,” he said.

The health unit recommends all Windsor-Essex residents follow the following health measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19:

  • Get vaccinated (for individuals 12 years of age and older)
  • Stay home if you are sick
  • Maintain a physical distance of 2 metres from others
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Use a non-medical face mask when physical distancing is not possible
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or use the inside of your elbow when you cough

WECHU says due to privacy concerns, it will not be publicly disclosing any further details about the cases or number of close contacts at the high school, but will address the outbreak during its 9:30 a.m. briefing on Thursday.