As many students across Alberta start their second week of school during the COVID-19 pandemic, seven positive cases of the novel coronavirus have been confirmed at individual schools in Calgary.
Any time one case of COVID-19 is confirmed at a school, the facility is put on “Alert” status, according to the government’s back-to-school guidelines.
According to the Calgary Catholic School District, three schools were in Alert status as of Tuesday, Sept. 8:
- St. Angela Elementary
- Divine Mercy Elementary
- Notre Dame High School
Board spokesperson Sandra Borowski said all three confirmed cases were in students.
Four schools within the Calgary Board of Education were in Alert status as of Tuesday, with one positive COVID-19 case at each:
- Canyon Meadows School
- Bowness High School
- Lester B. Pearson High School
- Bridlewood School
The school board did not say whether the cases were in students or staff members.
Neither school was considered to have an outbreak as of Tuesday. An outbreak is declared when two or more cases of COVID-19 are confirmed at a school. The outbreak is publicly reported on the AHS outbreak list if it reaches five cases.
The Fort Vermillion School Division had to delay its in-school learning and move to online instruction for two weeks after a staff member tested positive for the virus.
In an emailed statement on Tuesday, press secretary for Education Minister Adriana LaGrange, Colin Aitchison, said “it’s unfortunately unavoidable that schools experience some cases.”
“We are monitoring the situation across the province closely, however it is too early to jump to any conclusions as there are still many unknowns, including where students contracted COVID-19 and if any transmission occurred,” Aitchison said.
“Alberta Health Services is currently contact-tracing and the proper processes are being followed by the school authorities.”
Aitchison added the government would adjust its school re-entry guidelines if needed.
Principal invites government officials to tour school
In an emotional post on social media Monday, a woman who said she was the principal of Bowness High School said she was “exhausted, devastated, furious, frustrated, scared, anxious, sad, and so many more things all at once” over the positive case at the school.
Jana Macdonald, who said she did not want to do an interview on Tuesday, said the case was brought into the school from an outside source, and that the school followed all of the COVID-19 back-to-school guidelines.
“This is not my fault. This is your fault, Jason [Kenney]. This is your fault, Adriana [LaGrange]. Why don’t you come and visit us this week to show your support?” Macdonald said.
She invited both the premier and education minister to wear a mask and sanitize their hands on the way into the school, as students and staff are required to do.
“I would love to have you sit in a typical classroom and follow a student for the day to understand the impact of your ignorant decisions.”
Aitchison said LaGrange isn’t opposed to visiting schools in the province “if appropriate.”
“But the advice of public health officials and the school divisions has been to avoid unnecessary visitors,” he said. “For example, schools are not currently allowing parents entry to the facilities. Any invitation would be evaluated based on advice from local school divisions and public health officials.”
The CBE said in an emailed statement it was aware of social media posts made by a staff member on the weekend.
“These are challenging times, and we understand the stress, frustration, anxiety and unease many of our staff members may be feeling,” the school board said.
The Opposition NDP said with cases of COVID-19 confirmed in several Alberta schools, class sizes should be capped and physical distancing measures need to be addressed.
“The premier claimed this isn’t about money, and that if we needed additional resources to ensure the safe re-entry of schools, that resources would be made available,” NDP education critic Sarah Hoffman said in a media release. “It’s time for him to keep that promise — today.”
Hoffman said it wasn’t too late for the government to take action, adding “this first week has gone badly, but there’s still time to prevent the coming weeks from being worse.”
“The government must immediately provide schools with the resources they need to staff up and spread out,” she wrote.
The NDP would also like to see the government provide daily online reporting of all cases of COVID-19 in Alberta schools.
Chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw is giving a provincial COVID-19 update at 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday and is expected to be asked about back-to-school concerns. The news conference will be livestreamed in this post.
— With files from Global News’ Caley Ramsay
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