Three Red Deer high schools, and one middle school, are dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks of 10 or more cases as active cases soar in the city.
Active COVID cases in Red Deer jumped by almost 100 over the weekend to 471 as of Monday.
Schools most impacted include Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School, Notre Dame High School, St. Joseph High School, and St. Thomas Aquinas School, according to Alberta Health.
Since January, Lindsay Thurber has had a total of 21 cases, Notre Dame has experienced 10 cases, St. Joseph has seen 11 cases, and St. Thomas Aquinas has had 10.
West Park Elementary School, Fairview School, and Eastview Middle School also have outbreaks with five to nine cases.
St. Elizabeth Seton School, St. Francis of Assisi School, and Hunting Hills High School each have two to four cases.
COVID-19 variants of concern have been on the rise across the province and reached 56.8 per cent of cases as of Monday.
Bruce Buruma, director of community relations with Red Deer Public Schools, said Alberta Health Services doesn’t provide details about variants at schools. But since April 15, there have been 15 new COVID cases at schools with Red Deer Public that have required 532 students and 20 staff members to isolate.
He said a few families received late night calls to make sure they were aware of close contact cases and to ensure schools were safe for the rest of the students.
“For the most part we’ve been doing the best we can. Students have been working hard. Staff have been absolute superstars in trying to maintain as much of the normalcy as possible,” Buruma said.
“We have two months left of school. We’re sure hopeful that come September, we are back to near normal.”
He said there’s been very little indication of in-school COVID transmission, but at the same time the district has had 117 cases and required 5,026 isolations for staff and students over the school year.
Some Calgary public and Catholic schools recently reverted to online learning. Buruma said that remains an option if required, but Red Deer Public Schools trustees have not made the request to the Minister of Education Adriana LaGrange.
However, the school board has sent letters to the premier and the ministers of health and education about the importance of vaccine access for school staff.
On Tuesday, the province started allowing people as young as 40 to get the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.
“Reducing the age will help some of our staff, but it clearly won’t get all of our staff. We have some young staff who need it as well,” Buruma said.
On Monday, LaGrange said in the legislature that 99.6 per cent of students and staff remain in school, but on occasion some have had to go online due to “operational shortages and staffing issues.”
“We have always been receptive and responsive to the needs of the community, the needs of the educational community, to the needs of parents,” LaGrange said.
An update on COVID cases at Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools was not immediately available Tuesday.