September 24 - COVID-19 Update

Over the past week there have been a number of changes related to the guidelines for schools for COVID-19. We wanted to take this opportunity to highlight some of these changes and clarify information related to parent notification when a confirmed case of COVID-19 is shared with our schools by parents. We have also been made aware of social media posts that are circulating that make claims regarding mandatory student vaccinations which are based on misinformation that we would like to address and clarify with our families.

Recent Changes to the Re-Entry Plan and Health Screening Guides
On September 22, 2021, the government updated the guidance document for schools following the declaration of a public health emergency in Alberta. We have made changes to our Prairie Rose Re-Entry Plan to reflect the new guidance document. You can find it, along with government guidance and the CMOH order that supports the changes on our website under the tab COVID-19 Resources. Of particular note, the new health screening guide added a new section related to household close contacts. Until now there was no isolation recommendation for members of a family when someone tests positive for COVID-19. The Chief Medical Officer of Health has added a new section that changes this position. It is now strongly recommended that anyone who is a household close contact of someone who tests positive for COVID-19 to stay home for 14 days if they are not fully vaccinated. We recognize that this change will have a significant impact on many families and we encourage you to discuss any questions about this update with your school principal. You can find the changes reflected in updates to our Student Illness Guide and our Adult Illness Guide.

Reporting COVID-19 Cases in Schools
As we committed to in our re-entry plan, we have been notifying school communities when parents and staff have self-identified cases of COVID-19 in schools. To date, 10 of Prairie Rose’s 18 public schools have received notifications. When a case is self-reported to a school, the following information is collected to determine if the positive individual was in contact with others:

  1. What was the first date of symptoms?
  2. Did the individual attend school when symptomatic?
  3. If they did attend school, what classes would they have been in contact with?

When determining whether the individual attended school when contagious, we take the first day of symptoms and go back two days. For example, if we are notified that a student first had symptoms on a Friday and was in school each day that week, we would consider them a close contact of others in the school. However, if we are informed that the first day of symptoms was on a Monday morning and that student had not been in school since the Friday prior, we would not include them on the close contact list. This process of going back two days is the same we used last year when working with Alberta Health Services to identify close contacts. While we understand that families want to know as much information as possible, we also need to balance that desire with an individual’s right to privacy and whether the positive case has an impact on others. This is why we only add positive cases to our reporting when they are deemed to be a close contact with others in the school community. When positive cases are confirmed to have been in class, parents receive a notification via School Messenger informing them of the first positive case along with instructions for accessing daily COVID updates. All the cases are also listed on the Prairie Rose website which can be found here:

Social Media Misinformation
This past week it was brought to our attention that a post was circulating on social media claiming that school divisions were being deceptive in terms of mandatory vaccines, suggesting changes would be coming after the enrollment count on September 29th. We would like to make it very clear that this is inaccurate and fear mongering information and there have been zero conversations or engagement with school boards about this direction. School boards do not have the authority to mandate vaccinations. Our role is to ensure every student in Alberta has access to a quality education in an inclusive learning environment, which we will continue to support while prioritizing the safety of our students and staff. 

We would like to thank all of our school community for their understanding and support as we navigate another school year of uncertainty. Together we will continue to move forward with providing quality learning opportunities for students, despite the challenges that exist. If you have any questions about the information in this latest update, we encourage you to bring them forward to your school principal.

Roger Clarke
Superintendent of Schools