Students with Wolf Creek Public Schools preparing to visit China in March will find out on Monday whether the coronavirus outbreak will delay their trip.
Superintendent Jayson Lovell said he is optimistic the trip can be rescheduled if necessary, but it depends on the outbreak.
Other student trips to the United Kingdom, Germany, Mexico and the United States will also have to be re-evaluated.
“The vast population density in China is something, as Canadians, we don’t understand or appreciate. They have vast networks of transportation with trains and buses. The risk of that virus spreading is real,” said Lovell, who has visited China three times.
He said he appreciates the steps China is taking to contain the virus and the reasons for taking those measures.
The World Health Organization has declared the outbreak a global health emergency, and as of Friday, China had 9,692 confirmed cases and 213 deaths. No deaths have been reported outside China.
Wolf Creek has plans for 25 students and four staff to visit Guangzhou, China, from March 12 to 26.
Guangzhou is the capital city of Guangdong province, which is China’s most populated province with 110 million people.
Lovell said Guangzhou is about 1,000 kilometres away from the city of Wuhan, in Hubei province, where the outbreak began and the majority of cases have occurred.
“We understand it’s a case where the situation could change very quickly. It’s paramount that we maintain safety for our students and our staff.”
Wolf Creek students first went to China last March, and later, 15 Chinese students came to central Alberta.
Lovell said students from both countries stay with host families. Some students have stayed in touch with their new friends, likely during the outbreak.
“There’s ongoing communication. Those relationships are strong. It’s an international friendship.”
He said the exchange program has been a positive, enriching and enlightening experience that is about forging relationships and understanding global citizenship.
“There’s a lot to offer out there in the world and lots to be gained by understanding others and how they live.”
— With files from The Canadian Press