COVID-19 outbreaks declared at Henry Wise Wood High School and St. Wilfrid School in Calgary
CALGARY -- At least two cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed at Henry Wise Wood High School in Calgary, resulting in an outbreak being declared, Alberta Health Services confirmed Wednesday.
"AHS is already working directly with the school to limit risk of spread," reads a statement to CTV Calgary.
"This includes assessing the classroom(s) setting, and identifying and assessing the close contacts of the case. Any individual considered exposed to this case will be contacted directly by Alberta Health Services, per standard contact tracing procedures. Infection prevention control measures (physical distancing, masking, hand hygiene, environmental cleaning) have also been reviewed with the school."
Students at Henry Wise Wood said on Thursday they do worry.
“In terms of the cases it’s a little concerning,” said Brooke a Grade 10 student.
“My father is imminocomprimised so obviously when I get home I need to make sure I haven’t brought anything.”
A copy of a letter sent from AHS to parents was also posted to a website tracking COVID-19 cases in schools called Support Our Students Alberta and states, "The risk of the general population in the school becoming infected because of these cases is low."
That letter offered a number of health measures that should be followed, including self-isolating and completing the online self-assessment tool if a student becomes symptomatic, as well as ensuring everyone in a household washes their hands with soap and water regularly, avoiding touching their face and staying at least two metres distance while out in public.
Multiple students at the high school also said they are satisfied with safety protocols in place.
“The school has done a really good job and teachers are strict about sanitizing desks and hands,” said Brooke.
The province also announced Wednesday the launch of a website to help parents track cases of COVID-19 in schools. Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the website will be updated when at least two cases have been confirmed in a student or staff member in the previous 14 days.
A second school with an outbreak is St. Wilfrid, where two cases of COVID-19 were detected in members of the same family.
“It was acquired out in the community and brought into the school,” said Supt. Bryan Szumlas of Calgary Catholic School District.
“There’s two classes now that will be switching over to online learning with their teacher for the next 14 days then they’ll all come back into the school building.”
Both Calgary Catholic School Division and Calgary Board of Education say while they have heard some concerns from parents most are supportive of measures in place.
“The overwhelming response has been one of satisfaction that the opportunity exists for our students to return back to in-person,” said Christopher Usih superintendent of Calgary Board of Education.
One Calgary parent so worried about crowding at her child’s school felt compelled to give up her job to stay home so her daughter could learn online.
“Because I just didn’t feel safe and comfortable sending her to school,” said Selina Renfrow.
Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said there is room for improvement at some schools and invited parents and students to make suggestions on how to improve.
Even students who feel comfortable with the safety protocol in place worry the measures inside schools might not be enough.
“I feel like the people might not be completely following the rules,” said Hasti, who is in Grade 11 at Henry Wise Wood.
“If you come here at lunch time you’ll see huge crowds outside the school with no masks on and no social distancing which does scare me,” said Hannah, who is also in Grade 11 at the school.
Both the public and Catholic superintendents say since classes have resumed they have not had any parents request their child transition to full online learning, despite those deadlines passing in August. Both also insist education will not stop for anyone who needs to isolate.
The province said enrolment for online homeschooling was similar to final numbers from the 2019-20 school year.
Vista Virtual School, which offers distancing learning options as opposed to homeschooling, says its seen a massive increase in enrolment. As of Sept. 10 there were 2,377 students enrolled in the virtual school, nearly four times the amount from the previous school year, and new registrations are still being received and processed.
Students’ in-class teachers will come up with a short-term plan either through homework assignments or online.
School boards say parents should be ready with a plan in place because schools might call even late at night or early in the morning saying your child needs to stay home and isolate.
A third outbreak was also announced at Chinook High School in Lethbridge.
Read the letters below: