Positive COVID-19 tests at two Calgary-area schools have derailed the start of the year for some, while in northern Alberta an entire school division has chosen to delay return to classes.
Meadows Ridge School in Okotoks, south of Calgary, did not open as planned Tuesday after a staff member was diagnosed with COVID-19.
“Our thoughts remain with this individual and their family,” principal Rebecca Forchuk and Foothills School Division Supt. Chris Fuzessy wrote in a letter Monday.
“We wish them a safe and speedy recovery.”
They said the staff member was last in the school at noon on Friday and that symptoms began that evening. Officials learned of the positive test result at 6 p.m. Monday.
“While Alberta Health Services has indicated the school is safe to remain open, due to the late hour and to allow public health time to complete their contact tracing, we are delaying the start of school for some Meadow Ridge families,” the principal and superintendent wrote.
Contact tracing was complete by 10:30 p.m., said school division spokeswoman Candace Denison.
No students were to attend classes at Meadow Ridge and the school was to inform them of their new staggered entry dates once available.
Canyon Meadows School in Calgary was to open as planned Tuesday, but the principal, assistant principal and administrative secretary were forced into a 14-day quarantine after someone at the school tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
In a letter to parents, principal Bobbie Schmidt said it’s believed exposure happened a week ago and that a retired, experienced principal would be on site while the others isolate.
“Our school remains open to in-person learning for all students and we are excited for the first day of school,” Schmidt wrote.
“We have worked closely with (Alberta Health Services) to ensure necessary measures continue to be in place to protect all staff and students.”
Alberta Chief Medical Officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Monday that she was notified over the weekend of a “small number” of schools with COVID-19 cases or exposures in staff, but she did not elaborate.
Meanwhile, the Peace River School Division, northwest of Edmonton, posted a notice on its website saying it was delaying the start of its school year until after Labour Day.
The notice said the delay was to give teachers more time to get used to safety protocols, plan for at-home learning and to ensure there are enough caretakers and supplies in schools.
The school division also said it’s still waiting for delivery of hand sanitizer, masks, face shields and thermometers from the Alberta government.
On Monday, Hinshaw apologized for anxiety caused by a back-to-school public-health order issued Saturday, which spells out that schools do not have to ensure two metres of spacing when students, staff or visitors are seated at desks or tables.
The president of the Alberta Teachers’ Association called it a stunning reversal, but Hinshaw said the order was simply clarifying rules she had announced in August and she was sorry she unintentionally caused more confusion.
Staff and students in Grades 4 to 12 must cover their faces when they’re in common and shared indoor areas where physical distancing cannot be maintained, like hallways and buses.
However, the rules are eased for classrooms so that masks don’t get in the way of learning and communication.
Where two metres of spacing can’t be achieved, students should be seated in rows so that they are less likely to cough or sneeze directly into the face of classmates, Hinshaw said.
© 2020 The Canadian Press