BOW VALLEY – A COVID-19 positive case has been confirmed at a local public school – only the second one to occur since classes resumed in September.
While the second positive case of the virus is concerning, the fact that it is only the second time that a student with COVID was in a Canadian Rockies Public School (CRPS) classroom over the past three months speaks to the success of how all involved are doing, according to superintendent Chris MacPhee.
A letter went out to parents on Tuesday (Nov. 24) informing them that a student at Banff Elementary School (BES) has tested positive and has a sibling at the Banff Community High School. Both classrooms have switched over to online learning.
Board chair Carol Picard noted that CRPS is taking additional precautionary measures when it isolates classes that contain a sibling of a positive case.
"I like that fact that we are doing this without being told that we have to, as an added precautionary measure," Picard said.
The first COVID-19 positive case was confirmed by Alberta Health Services at Lawrence Grassi Middle School in Canmore during the first week of classes in September.
MacPhee said the decision making process for administration on when to take these additional precautionary steps due to a possible exposure occur after conversations between administration, principals and teachers from the affected classrooms.
"It is very much a group effort in how we are making those decisions and our principals are the boots on the ground telling us what is transpiring in the schools and what they feel comfortable with," he said. "We have had some of those discussions as recently as yesterday, but also a number of times over the last month or so."
Over the first term of school, officials said upwards of six classrooms have been switched to online learning, however only two of those involved a positive COVID-19 case and spent the entire two week period in isolation and learning remotely.
The superintendent, however, expressed disappointment in parents that have chosen to send their children to school with symptoms or after being exposed to the coronavirus, thus putting other students, teachers and schools at risk.
"There is some disappointment with what is transpiring because we are leaning that people are still sending their child to school with symptoms and are still sending students to school when they have been in contact with a known case," MacPhee said. "They are making those decisions themselves and we are finding out after the fact ... that is disappointing for us because it jeopardizes the system, our staff and the students."
In a letter sent to parents on Monday (Nov. 23), MacPhee also warned that the division is challenged with finding enough substitute teachers.
At the beginning of the school year, parents were informed that if a teacher is unavailable to staff a classroom due to COVID-related circumstances, students may be sent home until a substitute teacher can be found.
"We are beginning to see some challenges in securing substitute teachers for our classrooms due to the availability, suitability, and the level of comfort that individuals have with entering schools during the pandemic," MacPhee wrote in the letter. "We want you to know that our school principals are doing everything possible to ensure coverage for classes; however, the potential for a classroom to be without a substitute teacher is very real."
He acknowledged that last minute notification of in-class learning being cancelled could present challenges for families, but encouraged parents to make arrangements in advance should this occur.