Upper Canada College, an all-boys private school in Toronto, has temporarily closed its doors to in-person learning after close to a dozen people tested positive for COVID-19, linked to potential community spread.
Students are learning remotely this week, and the Hospital for Sick Children will be at the school to offer testing to students and staff.
The school said on Monday that there are 10 positive cases, which includes students in Grades 4, 8 and 12.
“As a precautionary measure to safeguard students, employees and the broader community, UCC has taken the voluntary decision to move to a remote learning schedule until next week,” said spokeswoman Marnie Peters.
“The school has also encouraged students, families and employees to consider participating in a voluntary testing program.”
Vinita Dubey, Toronto’s associate medical officer of health, said that since Feb. 25, there have been 12 positive COVID-19 cases at the school. Two of those cases have since been resolved. Toronto Public Health recommended that all staff and students be tested, Dr. Dubey said in a statement on Monday.
She said that public health has not declared an outbreak, which is defined as two or more linked cases in the school setting. “Since the people who have tested positive have links in the community for where they likely acquired COVID-19, an outbreak has not been declared in this school,” Dr. Dubey added.
Asked where some of the cases may have originated, Dr. Dubey’s response was vague. “The majority of people who tested positive have had close contact with someone in a community or household setting.”
It is difficult to get a sense of how many students and staff have tested positive for COVID-19 in the private-school system. Ontario’s website on COVID-19 case counts only details cases in the publicly funded system.
Ontario’s Education Minister, Stephen Lecce, directed the school boards in mid-February to begin offering targeted asymptomatic tests in 5 per cent of their schools each week and to at least 2 per cent of their students. Several school boards have yet to deploy testing. They say they have encountered problems and are waiting for more information from their public-health units or ministry-supplied private vendors.
According to the government’s website, 23 of the province’s public schools are closed, representing fewer than 1 per cent of all schools. Close to 20 per cent of schools, however, have at least one reported case of COVID-19.