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UPDATED: Schools boards respond to COVID-19


Editor's Note: The province announced March 15 all kindergarten to Grade 12 classes are cancelled as a measure to slow the spread of COVID-19.

As the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic continues, local school boards are updating parents on cancellations and precautions being undertaken.

Both the Calgary Catholic School District (CCSD) and Rocky View Schools (RVS) issued statements March 13 outlining a decision to cancel all field trips until further notice.

"This includes all activities where students are taken off school property or the location where they regular receive their instruction, i.e. Building Futures, The Farm, etc," stated an RVS letter to parents.

Though RVS hasn't stated a travel ban, it is "directing all staff and students who travel out-of-Canada to self-isolate for 14 days." 

CCSD has cancelled all travel and is "not planning any additional trips until further notice."

"We know this decision is disappointing, but please know that we did not make it lightly or without weighing all possible options," a CCSD update stated.

"We will continue working with our travel and insurance providers to review the possibility of refunds or alternative resolutions. We will communicate directly with affected students and families about next steps."

RVS has additionally suspended all athletic school sports teams from playing, cancelled all face-to-face school council meetings and community use of RVS facilities, and is reviewing if graduation banquets and ceremonies will be held.

Both school boards implementing distancing procedures and have restricted gatherings of more than 250 people.

"Events outside of school hours that include the regular student and staff population of the school (school clubs, practices, etc.) may also continue at this time, provided they do not include more than 250 people,"the RVS letter stated. "However, activities that include members outside of the regular student and staff populations, such as spring concerts and award ceremonies are cancelled until further notice."

RVS schools may proceed with regular classroom activities that are occurring during school hours; "however, activities involving multi-classroom gatherings, such as school assemblies are cancelled until further notice."

CCSD said larger gatherings such as sporting and school events (liturgies, assemblies, etc) will be reduced to smaller gatherings at the schools.

RVS is "enforcing strict food-handling guidelines in schools."

"To minimize the risk of infection among students, immediately all breakfast, snack and lunch programs need to be adult served only, with proper sanitation protocols followed," the letter to parents stated. "Students should eat in small gatherings like classrooms, not in large groups. Wherever possible, prepackage food is recommended."

While CCSD did not outline food-handling practices, it states it would increase the cleaning of high-touch points in schools and workplaces.

"Calgary Catholic is working to ensure we have necessary soap, sanitizer, cleaning and disinfecting supplies," the statement read.

Additionally, the school district said it is using emergency plans to mitigate and prevent the spread of illness, for interruptions to regular instruction and for potential school closures at the direction of AHS; creating protocols to regularly review good hygiene habits with staff and students; increasing vigilance with staff and students who may present symptoms; and using communication plans to provide updates to parents.

Both divisions are asking staff and students to stay home if they are sick, especially those experiencing COVID-19 symptoms such as fever, cough and difficulty breathing and those who have travelled outside Canada or have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19.

"Stay home and call Health Link at 811. If you are not seriously ill, do not go to a physicians' office, a healthcare facility or a lab without consulting Health Link first," the CCSD release stated.

CCSD is also asking parents to report any symptoms of COVID-19 to schools, is tracking the reasons for student and staff absences to determine if they are related to COVID-19, and monitoring children who develop symptoms of illness at school in the nurse's room and is asking parents or emergency contacts to pick them up.

"...[Symptomatic] children will not be permitted to take the bus home," the release stated.