Schools taking over: Calgary board assumes responsibility for COVID-19 notifications

Now that Alberta Health Services (AHS) indicated it was stepping back from the process of informing parents about positive cases of COVID-19 in their children’s schools, some school boards say they will take on the job.

The Calgary Board of Education (CBE) announced last week its commitment to the pandemic response and will share details of positive cases that are reported to them by families.

“If families report a positive case to the school, you are providing consent for the school to send out a notice to specific classes associated with the self-reported case, as well as a general notice to the school community at the end of the school day,” the CBE’s chief superintendent of schools Christopher Usih wrote in a letter sent home to parents on Friday.

The notifications will not include any personal information about the case and will not be sent out on the weekends, Usih said.

In addition to informing their school if their child has caught COVID-19, parents are also reminded to complete their daily health checklists each day before they attend classes.

“It is important that your child stay home when sick, but it is also important for them to attend school if they are feeling well. As close contacts are no longer required to isolate, if you choose to keep your child at home, it will be marked as an unexcused absence.”

Alberta Teachers Association president Jason Shilling said he was hoping the province would provide a more structured plan rather than leaving decisions to administrators.

AHS is still being kept informed about the number of infections at schools and the CBE says it will consider other measures when necessary.

“If there is a 10 per cent or greater student absentee rate that includes similar symptoms, AHS may declare an outbreak,” the letter reads.

“Families will be informed if an outbreak is declared at their school and these notices will be posted to the school website.”

The Edmonton Public School Board (EPSB) said, in a statement, it has been using the same policy since the beginning of the school year.

“A letter was sent home on the first day from the superintendent, letting families know about the process we would use this year,” said EPSB spokesperson Carrie Rosa in an email to CTV News.

“If we are made aware of a positive case, we are letting the class and whole school know.”

The provincial government, in addition to loosening the rules about sharing details on positive cases, is also no longer publicly sharing any data about confirmed outbreaks in schools. Its website says it will “continue to support schools to manage outbreaks.”

Meanwhile, an advocacy group working to improve conditions for Alberta students and their families criticized the change in policy.

“Schools will not be required to share COVID-19 positive cases with families,” wrote the Support Our Students on its website.

“School community members do not need to disclose positive test results to schools. This dismantling of the public health support for schools is unacceptable.”

All parents in the CBE who wish to stay informed of positive cases in their children’s schools should make sure administrators have their current e-mail address on file.

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