UPDATED: May 14, 2021
We look forward to continuing to work together as partners throughout the pandemic. This guidebook is written for parents/legal guardians to prepare you with programming details for this purpose. We have written the date on the cover of this guidebook because we expect to revise it as new messages are provided through the Minister of Education, Premier, Prime Minister, and Chief Medical Officer of Health in Alberta. Revisions will be written in red. Health measures are changing and we will be responsive and flexible as the year progresses.
Multiple health measures have been put in place to ensure that students, staff, and parents are safe. On July 21, 2020 the Minister of Education announced that students will return to school face-to-face in the Fall, at near-normal operations, with health measures in place. On August 4, grades 4-12 students and all staff have been asked to wear masks and mask use will be mandatory in common areas and when physical distancing of 2m is not possible. K-3 students are not required to wear masks. On August 31, 2020, the Chief Medical Officer, released an order (CMOH order 33-2020) that outlined requirements for non-medical mask use for Grade 4 to 12 students, all staff, and visitors in indoor spaces including on school buses and shared areas such as hallways. On September 8, all school jurisdictions received a letter from Dr. Deena Hinshaw restating and clarifying her guidance for school re-entry. On October 7, 2020, she and Health Minister Tyler Shandro, announced the likelihood of more stringent health measures should the numbers of COVID-19 cases continue to increase in especially Edmonton and surrounding areas. On October 8, 2020, Dr. Hinshaw, Chief Medical Officer, noted in the media that changes are voluntary but may become mandatory. Our school jurisdiction partnered with three other jurisdictions to make a public statement that there will be no extracurricular school athletics at this time and reconsideration will be given to athletics after Christmas Break.
In addition, there is an updated Alberta’s Daily Checklist, which is to continue to be used daily by students and staff and anyone who enters schools and division buildings. The information has changed to be more specific about the symptoms that legally require someone to isolate. Just a reminder that any changes to information about health measures are communicated at www.alberta.ca/covid 19 education and child care.
On October 13, 2020 Minister LaGrange announced that she had made the decision to allow students and parents to choose whether or not to write diploma exams for November. Through Colin Aitchinson, LaGrange’s press secretary, the reason provided was: "We know these are challenging times and that's why we want to ensure students and their parents have the flexibility to make the best decision for their own situation this exam season.” Our division supports this decision and is working with students and parents to assist in individual student choices about whether or not to write diploma exams for particular courses.
On November 12, 2020, Premier Kenney announced that the Priorities Implementation Committee, based on expert advice from Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, introduced temporary measures to reduce the number of close contacts that Albertans have with others who test positive for COVID-19. Given the continual rise in cases of COVID-19, on November 24, 2020, Premier Kenney announced more restrictive mandatory public health measures, and the key changes that are most applicable to schools are:
- No indoor social gatherings in any setting (other than regular classes)
- Outdoor gatherings- max of 10 (other than regular classes)
- No festivals or events (only virtual Christmas celebrations)
- Grades 7-12 are engaged in online, at home learning Nov 30-Dec. 18 (to stop the spread of the virus which has disrupted learning in especially secondary schools)
- Christmas Break Dec. 19-Jan. 3
- Return to online learning Jan. 4-8 (to continue to stop the spread of the virus)
- Return to face-to-face learning on January 11
- Grades Pre-K- Grade 6 continue at school learning 30- Dec. 18.
- Christmas Break Dec. 19-Jan. 3
- Start back-to-school in at home, online learning Jan. 4-8 (to extend the length of time that students are not interacting beyond their families)
- Return to face-to-face learning on Jan. 11
- Mandatory masks for indoor workplaces (not new)
- Diploma exams are optional for the rest of the school year. Students and families can choose to write an exam or receive an exemption for the January, April, June, and August 2021 exams (continuation of what was started in November)
We appreciate your support to continue to do the daily prescribed Alberta’s Daily Checklist prior to coming to schools. We also thank you, parents/legal guardians, for doing this daily checklist with your children before coming to school each day. If students show any signs of illness, they are not to come to school unless the signs are established as part of a pre-existing health condition. Strict stay-at-home protocols are in place for those who are feeling unwell.
We will continue to follow updates from Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.
On Thursday, January 14, 2021, we learned from Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Chief Medical Officer of Health, that regular school updates will be provided on the Alberta Health website and simplified terminology will be used. On January 20, 2021, the following terms will be used by Alberta Health Services when describing positive cases of COVID-19 in schools: Alert = 1 case, Alert = 2-4 cases, Outbreak = 5-9 cases and Outbreak = 10 + cases.
On Thursday, January 28, 2021, Premier Kenney announced relaxed restrictions for school authorities to start as of February 8, assuming that hospitalization numbers are at 600 or lower. On Saturday, February 6, 2021, Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced further relaxed restrictions related to school athletics, extracurricular activities, and performances. Deputy Minister Tremblay provided further information about how to interpret these guidelines for schools. We relied on all of this information to update this guidebook.
On March 1, 2021, Premier Jason Kenney said a recent spike in the COVID-19 positive testing rate and the number of active cases, including more variant cases, means other parts of Step 2 can’t happen yet. “That’s why we have to proceed cautiously, while still moving forward. I know that many Albertans want us to relax many more health restrictions today, but we cannot and we must not allow exponential growth to start to take hold driven by these new more contagious variants,” Kenney said.
On March 25, 2021, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said variant cases now account for 21 per cent of active cases provincially, and she reported that Alberta also leads the country in cases of the B.1.1.7 strain first identified in the United Kingdom. Although 365 schools are in alert (1-3 cases) or outbreak (5-9, 10+ cases) status in Alberta, we have had success in our schools with current health measures.
Following Spring Break, on April 6, 2021, Premier Kenney announced, “Alberta is reverting back to Step One of its public health restriction framework in order to curb the growing spread of COVID-19 and its variants. School measures have remained consistent and we look forward to continuing to work together to keep everyone safe.
Premier Jason Kenney and Minister Adriana LaGrange announced on Sunday, April 11, 2021 that the province will be expanding the COVID 19 rapid tests program to 300 schools by mid-May. The rapid-tests will be voluntary for staff and students, and signed consent will be required for participants. According to COVID-19 guidance and health measures for K-12 schools on the Alberta Education website, “Schools will be selected based on a variety of factors, including the prevalence of COVID-19 in the school or community and whether a school has had multiple outbreaks or school-acquired cases since the start of the school year.” We look forward to the impact of this added measure of safety in Alberta schools.
This week (May 3 - 7, 2021) has seen a number of announcements from Premier Jason Kenney in regards to stricter restrictions to ‘stop the spike’ of COVID-19. GSACRD will continue to adhere to the most current public health measures. Please visit the province’s expanded restrictions for hotspot regions site for more information.
If you have further questions or suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact your school principal or Division staff at: email@example.com.
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