The highly contagious COVID-19 variant strains are evident in a number of Alberta schools. Some parents are getting worried about the growing number of confirmed cases in classrooms.
As of Tuesday, Alberta Health said there were outbreaks or alerts in 413 schools in Alberta, which equals about 17 per cent of all schools in the province.
Medeana Moussa is with the student advocacy group Save Our Students. She said the provincial government hasn’t done enough to manage the growing risk, trapping families in perpetual isolation.
“We’ve been dealing with this pandemic for a year and government has not laid out a succinct plan to deal with the responsibilities and it has been downloaded onto administration without sufficient supports,” Moussa said.
“There’s been constant disruptions in the COVID rollercoaster parents and teachers have been riding.”
She said there needs to be increased stability for parents who may be forced to move their children to online learning.
“We believe there should be expedited rapid tests throughout schools and there are solutions for ventilation.
“There are things the government can do without going straight to shutting down schools,” Moussa said.
The education minister’s press secretary, Nicole Sparrow, said their department has been working closely with school authorities and launched a rapid screening test pilot program at select schools experiencing outbreaks.
“The results of the of the pilot will inform if a rapid screening test program can be successfully expanded to more schools and regions,” Sparrow said.
Rebecca Solly, a parent of two school-aged children, said online learning isn’t ideal.
“Fundamentally it would be great if everyone followed the rules then we wouldn’t have to be in these situations,” Solly said.
Father-of-two Edward Mitchell said he empathizes with parents.
“I’m lucky with my kids’ school because I work there and I have a lot of say in what happens but I know it is a situation most parents don’t have,” Mitchell said.
Alexandra Prichard said her family, like many others, have been impacted.
“My daughter is in Grade 3 and her grade had a COVID scare earlier year,” Prichard said. “But weighing out the options — it’s vitally important for my kids to be in school and socializing.”
NDP Education Critic Sarah Hoffman said the province needs to increase resources for families.
“It does feel like the government failed to learn from mistakes during the first and second time they closed schools and we see what’s happening around the country. I hope the government is paying attention to evidence and acts swiftly to make schools safer,” Hoffman said.
“Our own chief medical officer of health has stated that ‘schools are not a main driver of community transmission.’ We will continue to follow the advice of the chief medical officer of health and we are ready to make changes when needed based on her advice,” Sparrow said.
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