Division News Article

Update: Classes resume Jan 10 for all students

January 6th, 2022

Since the announcement to extend the Winter Break for students, teachers have been preparing for the likelihood that student and staff absences will increase as the Omicron variant impacts our population. We have received more information and direction from the government regarding the conditions of the return to classes on January 10th.

The province’s website shows that general guidance documents for schools are being updated to reflect COVID-19 measures announced between September and January 2022. Any changes that impact our schools will be communicated as a news update.

Distribution of medical-grade masks

The province has committed to distributing high quality masks to students and staff in K-12 schools.

“Medical-grade masks will be distributed through schools to students and school staff through a phased approach, starting with a 2-week supply of masks for each student and staff member. When fully distributed, staff and students will have received an 8-week supply. Both pediatric and adult medical grade mask distribution will be coordinated through Alberta’s PPE Task Force”. (Staying safe and healthy this school year)

  • Masks will be distributed to students and staff as soon as we receive them. We expect the shipment(s) to arrive next week.
  • We will be receiving and handing out two sizes; a smaller size for younger children and an adult size for older students and staff.
  • Staff and students can still use their own masks if they want to, though the higher quality masks are recommended.
  • Students in Grades 4-12 must continue to wear a mask in all common areas and when working interactively with others. Masks can be removed when students are sitting at their desks working independently.
  • Students in Kindergarten to Grade 3 are also encouraged to wear masks, but it is not mandatory.
  • Masks are mandatory on school busses.
  • Conditions for mask exemptions have not changed.
  • Please review COVID-19 Mask requirements (https://www.alberta.ca/masks.aspx)

Rapid Tests

Rapid test kits will be distributed to all Alberta schools next week. We do not yet know exactly when we will get ours. We will notify parents when we are ready to hand them out.

“Screening individuals with rapid tests can identify some, but not all, contagious individuals and, as a result, rapid screening does not replace public health measures such as physical distancing, masking, hand hygiene, staying home and accessing testing when sick and the mandatory isolation of COVID-19 cases.” (Education At-Home Rapid Testing Program – Information for parents, students and school staff)

Are the tests mandatory?

  • No – this rapid testing is not mandatory for staff and students.
  • PHSD staff will NOT be testing students at school.
  • The rapid tests are a screening tool that can help asymptomatic staff and students predict whether they are carrying COVID-19, and to provide some peace of mind.
  • The purpose is to reduce the pace at which the Omicron variant spreads. Reducing the spread should result in less absenteeism and less risk of severe illness.
    • Even though the percentage of people who become severely ill is low, the number still grows quickly because Omicron is very contagious.
    • For example – if 2% of 100 people who catch the variant get sick, then 2 people would get sick. However if there are 500 people, then 10 people could be expected to get sick.
    • Note that this example is not using real data. It is only for the purposes of illustrating the effect of high rates of infection.

Who should test? (Students and staff with no symptoms)

  • The advice from the province is that all students and staff who do NOT have symptoms, should test 2 times per week. Tests should be done every 3-4 days.
  • One schedule that might work would be testing on Sunday and Wednesday evenings before bedtime. Others may prefer to make it part of their morning routine and pick two days of the week that suits them.

How will tests be distributed?

  • As soon as your school receives their shipment of tests, you will receive a form to confirm your intent to receive and use the tests.
  • You will be able to tell us whether you’ll come to the school to pick up your family’s tests, or whether you want them sent home with your child.
  • You will also be able to decline the tests.
  • Staff will be able to pick up their tests from the school office.

How do we do the test?

Do test results have to be reported?

  • No – you do not have to report your test results for this program.
  • If your test produces a positive result, then you will need to isolate and follow the directions provided here: https://www.alberta.ca/isolation.aspx
  • Please contact the school to inform them that your child will be absent due to illness. It is your choice to inform the school if your child tested positive or not.
  • A positive rapid test result will not trigger a Notice of Exposure.

What will trigger at-home learning?

  • All classes will resume on January 10th.
  • The school division will closely monitor staff absentee rates.
  • Schools will closely monitor student absentee rates.
  • If absentee rates of students or staff of a given class, grade or school cross certain limits, those classes, grades or schools may be shifted to temporary at-home learning.
  • If this happens, affected families will be notified as soon as possible.

What can we do to prepare?

If your children require child-care, please prepare for the possibility of at-home learning in advance.

For more information

See the Alberta Government Information: Staying safe and healthy this school year