This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the spherical particles of the new coronavirus, colorized blue, from the first U.S. case of COVID-19. Classes at two Edmonton high schools have moved online after both reported large numbers of COVID-19 infections in the past week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Hannah A. Bullock, Azaibi Tamin/CDC via AP

Two Edmonton high schools move online after high COVID-19 caseloads confirmed

Two Edmonton high schools move online after high COVID-19 caseloads confirmed

EDMONTON — Two Edmonton high schools have moved classes online after a sudden spike in COVID-19 cases among students and staff.

There have been 20 confirmed cases at M.E. LaZerte School in northeastern Edmonton, where nearly 1,300 students been attending in-person classes.

At J. Percy Page High School in the city’s southeast, 715 students who had been receiving classroom instruction are now learning at home. Thirteen cases have been confirmed at that school.

Between the two schools, 666 students and 60 staff were asked to quarantine.

Edmonton Public Schools Supt. Darrel Robertson says he sought permission from the Alberta government Sunday for two-week “circuit-breaker” shutdowns. The Education Ministry approved the request within hours and parents were informed by letter shortly after, he said Monday.

Robertson said Alberta Health has told the school division that most of the new cases reported in the past week came from outside, but there has been some in-school transmission.

“I have full confidence that the contact tracers are going to … try to provide more of an explanation as to why these particular two areas in the city experienced that number of cases in a short period of time,” Robertson said.

Several cases emerged last week, but additional ones reported over the weekend compelled the school division to act, Robertson said. It also made sense to make the switch to home learning before a new school quarter began and students broke off into new cohorts.

A large backlog in contact tracing had previously been an issue. But Robertson said since the holidays, schools in his division have received notifications of positive cases within a day or sometimes hours.

Monday was being treated as a “transition day” for students and staff to adjust, he said, and equipment loans and technological support are available.

“There is a lot of anxiety around a pandemic, as everyone can appreciate, and we’re doing our best to take care of each other.”

Learning for Alberta students in grades 7 to 12 shifted online in late November amid a general surge in cases. Face-to-face instruction resumed two weeks ago.

Chief medical officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw said Monday that 11 per cent of Alberta schools currently had COVID-19 infections and that nine had five or more cases.

She said 51 schools had transmission within the institution, with about three quarters of those having only one new case as a result.

Hinshaw said her office is closely monitoring new, more transmissible variants of the novel coronavirus that have been detected in Alberta.

“There is no time when we can let our guard down. It doesn’t matter if it’s lunch time, break time, after school or after work,” she said.

The Alberta Federation of Labour said the school shutdowns should be a “wake-up call” for the province’s United Conservative government.

The labour group is calling for mandatory paid sick leave and isolation pay, “dramatically” increased funding for schools and investments in proper ventilation in schools and workplaces.

It also wants proactive inspections of workplaces and a strategy to “crush and contain” COVID-19 as other jurisdictions, such as New Zealand and Australia, have done.

An email from Education Minister Adriana Lagrange’s office said the government approved the requests for the shutdowns out of an abundance of caution.

“We consider the operational needs of the school — such as having numerous staff in isolation that makes it hard to continue with a high level of learning for students in school — when making this decision,” wrote Justin Marshall, the minister’s press secretary.

— By Lauren Krugel in Calgary

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2021

The Canadian Press


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Central Alberta Freestyle Ski Club is hoping to win $50,000 through the Mackenzie Investments Top Peak contest. (Contributed photo)
Central Alberta ski club trying to win $50K in online contest

A central Alberta ski club has entered a contest where it can… Continue reading

Ben King scores for the Red Deer Rebels during the third period of a Western Hockey League game against the Calgary Hitmen at the Westerner Park Centrium Saturday. (Photo by Rob Wallator/Red Deer Rebels)
Rebels complete comeback to pick up first win of season

Rebels 3 Hitmen 2 (OT) The Red Deer Rebels were able to… Continue reading

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Red Deer dips below 300 active COVID-19 cases

The number of active COVID-19 cases in Red Deer continued to drop… Continue reading

Lyn Radford, 2019 Canada Winter Games board chair, was named 2020 Sport Event Volunteer of the Year at the Prestige Awards. (File photo by Advocate staff)
WATCH: Lyn Radford wins award for volunteer efforts

The board chair of the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer… Continue reading

Mount Pearl Senior High in Mount Pearl, N.L., remains closed on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. The provincial health authority says there were 185 cases at 22 schools, including 145 infections among staff and students of one high school in Mount Pearl that was an early epicentre of the outbreak. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Daly
In Newfoundland and Labrador, three ingredients made for explosive COVID-19 outbreak

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — With her classes, three part-time jobs and a… Continue reading

A passenger places a tag on luggage at the departure terminal at Toronto Pearson Airport, in Mississauga, Ont., Friday, May 24, 2019. The economic and life disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted many recent immigrants to leave Canada and return to their countries of origin, where they have more social and familial connections. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
COVID-19 pandemic prompts recent newcomers to leave Canada for their home countries

OTTAWA — The economic and life disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic… Continue reading

Rail cars wait for pickup in Winnipeg, Sunday, March 23, 2014. The fierce debate over cross-border pipelines is putting more Canadian oil and gas on trains destined for the United States — a country experts fear is ill-equipped for the potential consequences. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
As debate rages over cross-border pipelines, U.S. analysts brace for more oil by rail

WASHINGTON — The fierce debate over cross-border pipelines is putting more Canadian… Continue reading

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

VICTORIA — Legal experts and a mother whose ex-partner was convicted of… Continue reading

Radio and television personality Dick Smyth is shown in an undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO
Dick Smyth, Canadian maestro of news radio commentary, dies at 86

TORONTO — Radio and television personality Dick Smyth, whose booming commentary filled… Continue reading

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, January 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Funeral for Walter Gretzky to be held Saturday in home town of Brantford, Ont.

The funeral for hockey legend Wayne Gretzky’s father Walter will take place… Continue reading

A sign for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service building is shown in Ottawa on May 14, 2013. A newly released audit report shows that difficulties with the judicial warrant process at Canada's spy agency — an issue that made headlines last summer — stretch back at least nine years. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Spy warrant shortcomings stretch back almost a decade, newly released audit shows

OTTAWA — A newly released audit report shows that difficulties with the… Continue reading

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
No winning ticket for Friday night’s Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the estimated $29 million… Continue reading

Most Read