Division News Article

Update – Step 2 begins March 1st

March 1st, 2022

Disrupted, affected, and persistent.

These are some words we can use to describe the past 24 months of pandemic response. In March 2020 Pembina Hills School Division followed the guidance from Alberta Government with strategies to protect staff and students from COVID-19. Learning was disrupted by stretches of at-home-learning and by illness and absenteeism of staff and students. Disruption became ‘normal’ but it affected students academically and emotionally. While restrictions were in place to “flatten the curve”, learning curves flattened as well.

With less opportunity to connect with one another, relationships weakened and this added to people’s growing mental distress. We experienced fear, frustration, anger and occasionally some relief. But the staff, students and parents of Pembina Hills persisted. High Schools came up with creative new ways to celebrate graduation. Teachers pivoted to different ways of delivering instruction. Students learned that being flexible and adaptable was more effective than being rigid. The encouragement and support of parents helped schools deal with compliance to unusual rules and expectations. In spite of the disruptions and their effects, Pembina Hills persisted as a learning community.

In 2020 our best defences were isolation and masking. Two years later we have vaccines to protect us from the severe outcomes of COVID-19, thanks to the worldwide collaboration among the medical science community. Throughout the pandemic governments around the world imposed restrictions intended to protect its citizens from disease and the health care systems from being overwhelmed. Nevertheless we’ve had to grieve personal loss and losses experienced by our friends, families, and neighbours. It has been a difficult 24 months.

Yet, we persisted and finally, as of March 1, 2022, many of the protective strategies defined by the province of Alberta have been lifted. Here is a brief summary of what has changed and what remains.

Masks

  • Students are no longer required to wear masks at school (took effect Feb. 9, 2022)
  • Staff are no longer required to wear masks in school
  • Masks are no longer required to be worn on buses
  • Staff and students who make the individual choice to wear masks will be supported. If staff or students require masks PHSD has them available – please contact your school office.
  • People returning from a recent case of COVID need to check the isolation and masking requirements described in the Daily Health Checklist

Sports

  • School teams can compete according to regular schedules

Spectators at events

  • Spectators can attend school sports and performances

Gatherings, meetings, etc.

  • Staff can gather in staff rooms
  • Parent-teacher meetings can resume in-person
  • Professional development events will no longer be impacted by gathering limits and social distancing requirements
  • Events and meetings can be facilitated online or in person

Cohorts

  • Maintaining separation of groups by cohorting is no longer required (all grade levels)

Working Conditions

  • Staff who had been providing Human Resources with evidence of negative rapid test results will not need to do so any longer
  • Any new staff that are hired for the remainder of this school year (2021-2022) will need to show proof of vaccination as a condition of employment

Volunteers and Visitors

  • Volunteers and visitors are welcome in schools and division offices
  • Volunteers and visitors must continue to sign in and out of the school (a pre-COVID requirement)
  • Volunteers and visitors do not need to wear masks or reveal vaccination status or provide a negative rapid test result

Rapid Test Kits

  • Schools can continue to offer rapid test kits to those who request them – Contact your school.

Cleaning and Hygiene

  • The amplified cleaning standards that began when COVID started will remain in place for the remainder of the 2021-2022 school year

Daily Health Check and Isolation Requirements

  • Staff, students and their parents will continue to be expected to monitor their personal health with reference to the Daily Health Checklist
  • We will continue to follow the expectations for isolation for those with symptoms, as per the Daily Health Checklist

We can not thank the wonderful staff of Pembina Hills enough—with all of the continual changes our staff persisted to ensure that students would receive the best possible education. It has been a difficult two years but the professionalism and determination of students, staff and community will allow us to accelerate learning and build stronger relationships in the future.

See also: Alberta Government 2021-22 Parent Guide (Updated Feb. 28, 2022)