The third wave has impacted PHSD schools more broadly than at any other time during the school year. At the time of publishing this article, there are over a dozen active cases in which a Pembina Hills staff member or student has tested positive with COVID-19.
When these cases are identified, division and school administration jump into action. After analyzing attendance data and class lists, principals reach out to staff and families of students who fall under the Alberta Health Services (AHS) definition of “Close Contacts.” These individuals are expected to follow the isolation guidelines which include staying home and not coming in close contact with anyone for the entire quarantine period.
As of April 27th, 541 students and 31 staff have been identified as close contacts to active cases (Note – ‘Close Contacts’ are NOT counted as ‘Active Cases’). The breakdown by community schools is as follows:
- Barrhead Elementary School: 42 students and 7 staff
- Barrhead Composite High School: 243 students and 6 staff
- Eleanor Hall School: 62 students and 2 staff
- Neerlandia Public Christian School: 72 students and 3 staff
- Sunny Bend Colony School: 0 students and 6 staff
- RF Staples School: 92 students and 2 staff
- Westlock Elementary School: 30 students and 5 staff
Note that because bus routes include transfers and pickups at rural schools, students from schools in Busby, Dunstable, Fort Assiniboine and Dapp may also be isolating. These numbers are included in the data we have from AHS: Close Contact lists for school-related cases.
A “lift-date” is the date when students or staff are allowed to return to school. The lift-dates vary based on the date of exposure. Lift dates for the above mentioned cases range from April 27 to May 7.
When a school has several overlapping cases among their staff and students for a period specified by AHS, the schools are identified as having a specific status: Outbreak or Alert. The “Outbreak” or “Alert” status is considered over when there have been no new confirmed cases associated with the school for 28 days.
The following schools are currently in this category on the COVID-19 school status map.
- Barrhead Composite High School (Outbreak, 10+ cases)
- Barrhead Elementary School (Outbreak, 5-9 cases)
- Neerlandia Public Christian School (Outbreak, 5-9 cases)
- RF Staples School (Alert, 2-4 cases)
- Westlock Elementary School (Alert, 2-4 cases)
The public can be assured that all of the protocols we have in place in our schools are working to control transmission. This fact has been verified by the site inspections performed by Alberta Health Services—these inspections are completed after a site has two or more cases. Without these controls, the numbers of students and staff affected may potentially be considerably higher.
It is important for everyone in our communities to know that choices made by people of all ages on evenings and weekends have impacted the number of students and staff who are required to isolate. When students are learning-at-home, our teachers’ ability to support them drops considerably and their learning progress suffers. On behalf of the students and staff at Pembina Hills, we implore everyone to continue following the guidelines and get vaccinated as soon as it’s your turn.
What else can families do?
This April 21, 2021 article from The Conversation, Exercise boosts immunity and makes vaccines more effective – new study, describes the many health benefits of physical activity (Author: Sebastien Chastin, Professor Health Behaviour Dynamics, Glasgow Caledonian University). Get yourself and your kids moving and active at least 30 minutes per day, five days a week. There are just over 2 months remaining in this school year. Let’s do more than hope that things get better for the home stretch – let’s act safely and responsibly.