Positive COVID-19 tests at 2 Calgary-area schools derail start of year for some

COVID-19 prevention measures have made for a rough start to the school year

Positive COVID-19 tests at two Calgary-area schools have derailed the start of the year for some, while in northern Alberta an entire school division has chosen to delay return to classes.

Meadows Ridge School in Okotoks, south of Calgary, did not open as planned Tuesday after a staff member was diagnosed with COVID-19.

In a note to parents sent on Monday night, the school said it is working closely with public health officials, and anyone who had close contact with the staff member would be notified.

Canyon Meadows School in Calgary was to open as planned Tuesday, but the principal, assistant principal and administrative secretary were forced into a 14-day quarantine after someone at the school tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Meanwhile, the Peace River School Division, northwest of Edmonton, posted a notice on its website saying it was delaying the start of its school year until after Labour Day.

The notice said the delay was to give teachers more time to get used to safety protocol and to prepare their classrooms.

Students across much of Alberta are heading back to class this week, but COVID-19 prevention measures have made for a rough start to the school year.

On Monday, Alberta’s top doctor apologized for anxiety and confusion caused by a back-to-school public-health order on the weekend.

The order issued Saturday spells out that schools do not have to ensure two metres of spacing when students, staff or visitors are seated at desks or tables.

The president of the Alberta Teachers’ Association called it a stunning reversal of physical-distancing rules in classrooms.

Chief medical health officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the order was simply clarifying rules she had announced in August and she was sorry she unintentionally caused more confusion.

Staff and students in Grades 4 to 12 must cover their faces when they’re in common and shared indoor areas where physical distancing cannot be maintained, like hallways and buses.

However, the rules are eased for classrooms so that masks don’t get in the way of learning and communication.

Where two metres of spacing can’t be achieved, students should be seated in rows so that they are less likely to cough or sneeze directly into the face of classmates, Hinshaw said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 1, 2020

— With files from CTV Calgary

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