A Toronto school worker has died after contracting COVID-19, becoming the first school staff member known to have died of the virus since schools reopened in Ontario in September.
Toronto Catholic District School Board spokesperson Shazia Vlahos said the child and youth worker worked at St. Francis De Sales School on Firgrove Crescent in North York.
“We’ve recently learned of a tragic death of a staff member of the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB),” Vlahos said. “This unfortunate news is a huge loss to our entire TCDSB community. Supports are available to the impacted school community. At this time we are focused on supporting staff and students and respecting the privacy of the grieving family and staff member.”
Multiple sources with direct knowledge of the situation tell CTV News Toronto the worker was a 67-year-old woman with several pre-existing conditions that made her more susceptible to severe infection.
She tested positive “earlier this week” and died on Wednesday morning.
The worker has been identified to CP24 by multiple sources as Ingrid Salt.
Ingrid Salt is seen in this undated photo. (Submitted)
Toronto Public Health investigated her activities at school and determined she acquired her illness in the community and not at school.
The school board said Salt was last at work on Nov. 12 and was only working in one class.
“CUPE Ontario’s 280,000 members mourn the loss of our sister, a CUPE education worker who passed away after contracting COVID-19. Our solidarity and condolences to her family, friends, and all her union colleagues,” the Canadian Union of Public Employees said Wednesday.
Vlahos said one class in the school of approximately 19 students is self-isolating at home due to possible COVID-19 exposure.
Parents are remembering Salt as a kind and dedicated worker.
"We lost somebody we love. This is a very close community, and we know each other for so many years," said Susel Munoz, whose children go to the school.
She said the news came as a surprise as they were never notified that someone at the school was sick.
"We feel the pain that is going through right now to all these families and how everyone is feeling the loss of life," Munoz said.
Salt was a loving and very special member of the school, Munoz said, interacting with every parent and child.
"She was very energetic, always making jokes, always ready to help, always ready to even give you feedback as to what to do and what to expect," Munoz said.
She remembered how Salt helped her daughter when she was getting bullied in school.
"She wanted to sit down and teach them and listen to them. When they have any problems, she was always there to listen to them," Munoz said.
As a mother of children with special needs, she said Salt always encouraged her to keep going and overcome life's challenges.
"You need people like that to tell you that you can just go on and keep going and keep doing a good job," Munoz said.
Holding back tears, she said it's tough knowing that Salt will no longer be there for her.
"I was just telling somebody before coming here that it's going to feel very strange not to have her around anymore," she said.
"It's going to feel like we're missing something she had -- her energy that overpowers and takes an entire room."
Ward 3 School Trustee Ida Li Preti said Salt had been part of the community for four decades and had touched the lives of thousands of students and families.
"This is a great loss for not only our local school but our TCDSB community as a whole," Li Preti said.
She fondly remembers Salt running in the hallway, smiling from ear to ear, to congratulate her when she was first elected as a trustee.
"She was always happy," Li Preti said. "She always wanted to lift everybody up, no matter what the situation was. She was a very positive influence on our students, on myself, and on our staff."
She said Salt dedicated her whole life to the students, helping them to achieve their goals.
"She will be remembered forever," Li Preti said.
"That'll be her legacy for always being that helping hand and for always having a smile on her face."
The school's flag has been lowered to half-mast.
The board says they were first made aware of an infected staff member on Nov. 13.
The school remains open.
More than 3,600 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in Ontario schools since mid-September, including at least 461 cases involving staff.
Early last April, a Grade 3 teacher at Flemington Public School in Toronto died of COVID-19 while schools were virtual-only, the Toronto District School Board said.
News of the death comes as Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce floated the idea of some sort of pause of in-school activity attached to either side of the winter break.
On Wednesday he issued a statement dismissing the idea as unnecessary.