I hope everyone had an enjoyable spring break and is doing well. I’m reaching out to you because since returning from the break, we’ve seen a significant spike in COVID-19 cases within schools, the region and the province. I want to reassure you, EIPS continues to work closely with Alberta Health Services to ensure stringent public-health measures remain in place to mitigate the risks of COVID-19 spread in schools—mandatory mask use, cohorting, physical distancing, and enhanced cleaning and disinfection in all school and on all buses.
That said, the new variants of concerns are taking hold within the region—mostly the B.1.1.7 variant, first identified in the United Kingdom. As a result, the Division’s seeing large numbers of students and staff quarantining after being identified as close contacts. Currently, there are 25 active school cases within the Division. In addition, there are roughly 980 students quarantining and roughly 100 staff quarantining. EIPS is doing everything possible to redeploy staff to ensure continuity of learning with minimal disruption. However, with such high numbers of students and staff quarantining, regular school operations are becoming increasingly challenging.
As such, there is a possibility, in the near future, the Division will need to transition students in specific schools or grades to a temporary teacher-led online learning model—similar to how students learned between November 30 to January 8. If this is done, it will be on a case-by-case, class-by-class basis—there is no plan to revert to online learning across the Division.
No definitive decisions have been made to this point; the Division is currently consulting with Alberta Education to determine the best course of action for some schools. In the meantime, I want to ensure you’re aware of the possibility, and as prepared as possible, as there is the potential to impact families. Should the decision be made to move students to temporary online learning, EIPS will notify affected school families with as much notice as possible.
I cannot stress enough how important it is for families to continue to monitor their child for any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 by completing the verbal COVID-19 Screening Questionnaire. Remember to complete the questionnaire every day before attending school. If you answer “YES” to any of the questionnaire questions, follow its instructions and use Alberta Health Services’ COVID-19 self-assessment tool, or call Health Link at 811, to determine next steps. Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 is asked to notify the school or Division to ensure all public-health measures are followed. I also encourage you to review the EIPS COVID-19 Guidelines on an ongoing basis. The guide outlines how schools are operating, expectations and public-health measures in place until public-health restriction lift.
Lastly, I want to thank all of you for continuing to follow the public-health measures in place in schools and for your ongoing understanding and patience in what’s been a complex and challenging year. Our ultimate goal is to keep transmission rates low and for students to continue to learn throughout the pandemic.
As always, Elk Island Public Schools will continue to update you as additional information becomes available.
Mark Liguori, Superintendent