COVID-19 concerns front and centre as Calgary students head back to school

CALGARY — Thousands of students across Calgary head back to school Wednesday but, for many, the typical first day of class excitement is being overshadowed by uncertainty with rising COVID-19 case counts across the province,

Students and staff at public and catholic schools in the city will be required to wear a mask indoors. With students under the age of 12 currently ineligible for vaccinations, some parents, teachers and doctors have expressed concerns expressed about safety in the classroom.

Teachers with the Calgary Board of Education (CBE) and Calgary Catholic School District (CCSD) are not required to be vaccinated but both boards encourage their staff to do so.

The province’s guidelines for schools no longer includes contract tracing for positive cases at schools but the CCSD says it will still let parents and staff know about a positive case if they’re notified by a parent that their child has tested positive for COVID-19.

The CBE is following Alberta Health’s directive and won’t be notifying parents.

“Staff, students, or parents/guardians may still choose to notify schools of a positive COVID-19 test result, but they are not required to do so. If they do report a positive case, that information will still be collected,” it reads on the CBE’s website.

AHS will consider additional measures if a school has an absentee rate of 10 per cent or higher.

While some parents and teachers are apprehensive about a lack of safety measures in schools, others say they go too far.

In a letter sent to parents this week, the CCSD says it’s aware of concerns from some parents about the masking mandate.

“We want your child in the regular class, but that will only happen, if they are masked or you provide the medical note by a licensed doctor,” read the letter. “Wearing masks is hard for all of us but it is an extra layer of protection against the virus.”

The CCSD says there are some temporary options available if a parent chooses for their child not to wear a mask  including requesting a temporary workplace is set up at school or registering their child for online learning.

Alberta reported 920 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday to bring the number of active cases to 11,660.

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