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Chippewas of the Thames school closed until Oct. 3 amid rise in COVID-19 cases on First Nation

Antler River Elementary School. Credit: Antler River Elementary School via Facebook

Students attending Antler River Elementary School on Chippewas of the Thames First Nation (COTTFN), located just west of London, Ont., will have to wait until at least early October before they can return to the classroom as the community contends with an uptick in COVID-19 cases.

Officials with the Chippewas of the Thames Board of Education confirmed in a social media post on Thursday that the school would be closed for at least six school days, with a planned reopening date of Oct. 3.

The closure comes in response to a recommendation from Chippewa Health Centre after the school saw a high number of student and staff absences on Wednesday due to illness, said the board of education’s director of lifelong learning, Joette Lefebvre, in a statement.

The school was forced to close on Wednesday as a result, and remained closed on Thursday, according to a post on the school’s Facebook page. A post late Wednesday morning called on parents and guardians to contact the Chippewa Health Centre if their child had tested positive for COVID-19 and was a student at the school.

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In a separate post Wednesday on the Chippewas of the Thames Facebook page, officials noted that there had been an increase in positive COVID-19 cases within the community, and that all community gatherings and events would be cancelled until Sept. 26.

“Due to the high transmission rates, (health officials) are also strongly advising that during this time, visitors and staff within the First Nation undertake face masking and frequent hand sanitizing protocols. All visitors will be asked to sign in within each of the buildings for contact tracing purposes,” the post reads.

The board will reassess the planned reopening date on Sept. 29 should the closure need to be extended further, Lefebvre’s statement read. The school was already expected to close on Sept. 30 to honour the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

“Please keep in mind that, as has been the case over the past couple of years, protocols can change quickly. As we have throughout the pandemic, the Board of Education will continue to follow the guidance and direction from the Chippewa Heath Centre,” Lefebvre said.

Families and parents would be contacted by the school in regards to learning packages and communications with teachers, Lefebvre said.

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Upon returning to the school, students and staff will be required to wear masks and use hand sanitizer, Lefebvre added. Students or staff showing symptoms will be asked to stay home until symptoms have improved for 24 hours.

Global News contacted officials with Chippewas of the Thames First Nation and Chippewas of the Thames Board of Education for comment, but did not receive a response by publishing time.

PCR testing for COVID-19 is being provided on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Chippewa Health Centre, while a vaccination clinic will be held at The Antler River Seniors Centre on Oct. 1 for children 12 to 17, and on Oct. 15 for all adults.

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