More than 20 schools across Central Alberta have had large-scale COVID-19 outbreaks, according to the Alberta NDP.
In a news release Friday, the NDP said leaked documents show the UCP and Alberta Education knew about outbreaks of the virus and the Delta variant but withheld that information from the public.
Earlier this week, the provincial government announced it is resuming public reporting of COVID-19 cases in schools, reversing a decision in August not to disclose cases in schools this fall.
The latest provincial data which was released Thursday showed that 54 schools have declared outbreaks of the virus, which means 10 or more cases, while more than 750 have reported at least two cases.
“This fourth wave has made things challenging. Especially for families of children who are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine and certainly for our schools,” said Minister of Education Adrianna LaGrange on Tuesday.
“We have always committed to monitoring the pandemic and making changes as needed to ensure in-person learning can continue safely. Now, with the fourth wave, we are in a very different situation than we were just a few months ago.”
According to the leaked documents, Stettler Elementary School, which had an outbreak declared on Sept. 23, had 110 cases of COVID-19.
Ponoka Elementary had an outbreak declared on the same day and 89 cases of the virus were discovered. Bentley School and Toefield School, had outbreaks declared on Sept. 27 and 28 and had 66 and 67 cases of the Delta variant respectively.
The Chester Ronning School in Camrose had an outbreak declared on Oct. 1 and had 66 cases of COVID-19.
“Jason Copping and Adriana LaGrange had this information and they covered it up,” said Sarah Hoffman, NDP Critic for Education.
“They hid it from the students, staff and families at these schools. That is gross negligence.”
Other schools in the Central zone had outbreaks of COVID-19 that were recently declared, including five in Red Deer.
G.H. Dawe Community School has 41 cases and was declared an outbreak on Oct. 2. Holy Family School had 40 student cases with an outbreak that was declared on Sept. 20 and George Wilbert Smith School had 35 cases with an outbreak established by Alberta Health on Oct. 1. Fairview Elementary had an outbreak that started on Sept. 29 and included 18 COVID-19 cases among students. Mattie McCullough Elementary School had 33 student cases and eight among staff, with an outbreak being declared on Sept. 24.
In Blackfalds at Iron Ridge Intermediate School, there was an outbreak declared on Sept. 24, where 26 teachers were infected with the Delta variant and 35 student cases.
Several schools in Rocky Mountain House had 20 or more cases. St. Dominic Catholic High School had an outbreak that started on Sept. 27 and had 22 cases, while Rocky Christian had its outbreak starting on Sept. 28 and also had 22 cases. Pioneer Middle school had 34 cases of the Delta variant in students, with four in staff. École Rocky Elementary School had a Delta variant outbreak declared on Sept. 16 and had 35 cases among students, with four more from staff members.
In Camrose, Jack Stuart School had 36 cases of the virus and Sparling School had 54 cases all in students, all of the Delta variant. École Charlie Killam School had 60 cases after its outbreak was declared on Sept. 23.
There was an outbreak declared at Lacombe’s Ecole James S. McCormick School on Sept. 24, with 43 cases.
Penhold had outbreaks at both Jessie Duncan Elementary School and Penhold Elementary School. Jessie Duncan outbreak was declared on Sept. 16, with 52 cases and Penhold Elementary had its outbreak start on Sept. 22, which included 30 cases of the virus.
“Education and the ability to participate in school is a number one priority to preserve. The measures that were introduced two and a half weeks ago with respect to enhanced protection in schools, we’re seeing the impact of that in reduced transmission in all age groups,” said Chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw on Thursday.
“This week we introduced further measures. With respect to considering a move to online, if that were necessary to do – if we saw significant transmission happening, of course, then we would make sure that was an option to be considered.”