Calgary’s K-12 students return to class after holiday break extended by pandemic

Kindergarten to Grade 12 students are heading back to Alberta schools after an extended holiday break due to surging cases of COVID-19.

Alberta is currently dealing with its highest active COVID-19 case count since the start of the pandemic.

Almost half of the province’s active cases are in the Calgary zone, which is raising concerns for some parents.

Both the Calgary Catholic School District(CCSD) and the Calgary Board of Education (CBE) said they’re putting an emphasis on increasing ventilation and airflow as much as possible to reduce transmission.

The CBE recently posted an update outlining the possibility that schools in Calgary could still potentially shift to online learning depending on staff availability and student absentee rates.

For the CCSD, extra planning has gone into being ready to deal with any curveballs.

“Our staff is amazing here, and they would be able to transition in a second and the district shared some plans on Friday about the threshold of when students may have to go online,” said Sheelagh Olson, principal of St. Gianna School in southeast Calgary.

“All of our teachers have Google classrooms set up, they’ve connected with their students through there all year.”

Many Calgary schools are also bracing for a potential lack of bus drivers which could result in last-minute cancellations and delays.

Parents and guardians are encouraged to check the CBE website for more information on potential transportation issues and to have a backup plan in place to get their kids to school if their route is cancelled altogether.

The CCSD has also posted updates as well as a handbook for parents and guardians to view on its website.

The province will be distributing rapid test kits and medical-grade masks to schools across the province, but the shipment of those items won’t arrive at Calgary schools until the end of the week.

Olson tells CTV News that she’s had the chance to speak with some concerned parents to share the CCSD’s plan for returning students. She looks forward to connecting with more families as the week moves along.

“I think today will be really telling. It will be good to hear more from the parents. We didn’t hear a lot last week, but certainly there are some concerns.”

Approximately 38 per cent of children between the ages of five and 11 in Alberta have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

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