Most Calgary students return to class Wednesday amid a growing number of COVID-19 cases across the province.
The city’s top school boards, the Calgary Board of Education and the Calgary Catholic School District, sent final reminders to parents Monday night with more details on this year’s health measures.
Students and staff, as well as visitors to CCSD schools, will be required to wear masks by the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year.
According to a memo sent to parents, the decision is in response to the growing COVID-19 cases recently reported in Alberta and within the city of Calgary, reaching 3,176 active cases Tuesday.
“I know not everyone is happy that we are going in this direction with mandatory masking,” said CCSD Chief Superintendent Bryan Szumlas, while appearing on Global News Morning.
“But we know from our experience last year that we were able to minimize the transmission of COVID-19 in our schools and part of that was due to the mandatory use of masks.”
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CCSD offers options for students who have a medical exemption or whose parents refuse to wear a mask. That includes applying for a temporary workspace at the school, as well as temporary remote learning.
CCSD’s memo to parents also recommended registering for online learning.
The Alberta government’s back-to-school plan no longer required schools to notify close contacts of a positive COVID-19 case. However, CCSD said it would continue that process.
Szumlas said a letter would be sent to parents and staff if a parent notifies the school that their child tested positive for COVID-19.
“If a parent tells the principal that their child is positive for COVID-19, we think it is the right thing to send a letter to that class and let the teacher know that there is a positive case in that. classroom, ”Szumlas said. “Of course, we will do everything possible to protect the privacy of that child.”
Szumlas added that CCSD’s health measures would be revised depending on the trend of COVID-19 cases in Alberta.
CCSD begins a staggered reentry for students on Wednesday.
Masks will also be mandatory inside Calgary Board of Education schools, and students are expected to wear masks while sitting at their desks in classrooms.
According to the CBE website, the decision was based on several factors, including the number of students who are not eligible for vaccinations, as well as the vaccination rate among students eligible for immunization against COVID-19.
There are exemptions for students if they are unable to wear a developmental, physical, or psychological mask, per CBE protocol.
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However, CBE will follow the Alberta Health directive and will not inform parents or staff of a positive case of COVID-19 in schools.
“Schools will continue to monitor their school populations for positive cases, either through self-assessment by staff or families, and / or absenteeism due to illness,” said a CBE memo to parents. “If absenteeism increases significantly, AHS may declare an outbreak and recommend additional health measures.”
The Calgary Board of Education did not respond to Global News’ request for comment for this story.
Dr. Jia Hu, a public health physician and former Calgary region medical health officer, helped develop CCSD’s health measures for the upcoming school year.
According to Dr. Hu, the measures implemented are logical given the current trend of cases in the province.
“What these school boards are doing, I think, is quite reasonable in terms of striking the balance between protecting the safety of children and at the same time protecting children’s mental health and learning, which is also very important,” he said. Dr. Hu to Global News.
Meanwhile, parents like Crystal Reynolds look forward to a smooth school year without the back and forth of remote and classroom learning like last year.
Reynolds has two daughters who will return to school on Wednesday, one in grade 10 and one in grade 12, both of whom are fully immunized with two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“It’s a game of chance,” Reynolds said. “I am happy on the one hand that my children are coming back and engaged, but anxious on the other. It’s like crossing your fingers for luck. “
Alberta reported 920 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, out of about 7,487 tests.
There are now 11,660 active cases of COVID-19 in Alberta.
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