By Lethbridge Herald on September 10, 2020.
According to Lethbridge School Division about 140 students from Chinook High School are in 14-day mandatory quarantine by order of Alberta Health Services after two students tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week.
“We’re classified as an outbreak (by AHS),” explained LSD Superintendent of Schools Cheryl Gilmore. “An outbreak means there are two different students who have tested positive with COVID-19. Certainly our role as a school division is to follow the (close contact) protocols and guidelines Alberta Health Services puts into place.”
The 140 students, or seven classroom cohorts, represent a sizable chunk of Chinook High’s 1,200-member student body. The quarantined students will have access to online learning while they wait out the 14 days, confirmed Gilmore, and other classes at the school will continue as normal.
“Our schools and staff have the technology in place so students who are at home for extended periods of time will have learning at home,” she said.
Gilmore confirmed the two students who tested positive contracted the virus outside of the school environment.
“The (AHS) contact tracing, from our knowledge, is the transmission from one student to the other did not occur because of school,” Gilmore stated. “The transmission was an outside of school activity both students were engaged in.”
“I think we can be incredibly proud of the protocols that our schools have in place,” she added. “Everything in the re-entry guide that has been recommended on the part of the province our schools have worked tremendously hard to have those in place … I would suggest, in fact, we are quite proud of what our schools have in place and I don’t think our schools have missed anything that has been brought to our attention.”
Gilmore said one component of preventing the spread of the coronavirus in local schools is the responsibility of the schools themselves and the division, but another component, control of spread in the community, is largely out of their hands and is the responsibility of everyone.
“It is up to our whole community to be watchful and make choices and decisions to what may or may not be conducive to transfer,” she said. “Certainly when you have 12,000 students in a system, and you have students who are engaged in different activities outside of school, students who are just coming back from summer, it certainly isn’t necessarily a surprise (we have positive cases).”
Lethbridge-West MLA Shannon Phillips also weighed in on Thursday on the first positive cases in a school in the city and reports that 35 other schools across the province in the past week have also reported positive cases of COVID-19 among students.
“Parents, teachers and families are worried as kids return to class,” Phillips’ statement reads. “We all want a return to structured life for our children and for them to be able to focus on their learning and development. That’s why nobody wants the back-to-school plan to fail. While it will be impossible to eliminate all risk in schools, the UCP government has not done enough to reduce that risk. They had six months to prepare, but failed to provide the appropriate funding or planning.
“Instead of dismissing concerns from teachers and parents,” she concludes, “the government needs to make sure we are doing everything we can to keep kids safe. This includes smaller class sizes to ensure physical distancing.”
Lethbridge-East MLA Nathan Neudorf said public health officials are monitoring the situation at Chinook High closely.
“We are aware of the COVID-19 cases at Chinook High School,” his statement reads. “It is believed that these cases are due to community transmission rather than an in school transmission. AHS and Dr. Hinshaw are aware of these cases, and as always are being vigilant in their investigation.”
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