Edmonton Catholic, public schools cancel more field trips amid coronavirus outbreak

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More school trips have been cancelled by Edmonton Public Schools and Edmonton Catholic Schools amid the ongoing outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

Edmonton Public Schools said Wednesday it has cancelled all international field trips until the end of April. The cancellation impacts 23 trips from 19 schools which were scheduled over spring break and into April. Trips were planned to Europe and the United States.

“Due to the evolving nature of coronavirus, we feel this is the most appropriate step to take to keep our students and staff safe,” Edmonton public spokesperson Megan Normandeau said.

Normandeau said the cancellations affect about 600 students and 85 supervisors, which include Edmonton Public School staff.

The school division said it is working with families on the “financial aspect” of cancelling the trips, but Normandeau couldn’t say how much families might be out.

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“Every school will be having those conversations with the impacted students and their families. Every school is going to be a little bit different depending on travel providers and insurance implications and things like that,” she said.

“This is not something that is going to be new to our families. We’ve been having these conversations for weeks now and although the field trips were cancelled today, it’s definitely not something that was not on their radar before now.”

READ MORE: Edmonton school trips to Asia, Europe cancelled or changed due to coronavirus concerns

Edmonton Catholic Schools also announced Wednesday it has cancelled the remaining portion of a high school trip to Europe over spring break.

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Last week, the school board announced it would cancel the Italy portion of the trip due to the spread of COVID-19, but still planned to visit Spain. On Wednesday, the school division announced the Spain portion is also cancelled.

“I think the concern is that we may be able to get the students over to Europe but what if they’d have to be in quarantine because something happens there? We might not be able to get them home. So with too many unknowns, we’ve decided to err on the side of caution,” Edmonton Catholic Schools spokesperson Lori Nagy said.

READ MORE: How Alberta schools are responding to the coronavirus in China

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Fifty-one students from Austin O’Brien and St. Oscar Romero high schools were scheduled to take the trip to Italy and Spain. Nagy said the health and safety and students and staff is the division’s first priority.

“It looks like these trips will not be rescheduled because they were specifically for spring break. We will see perhaps next spring break if that is different, but for some of these high school students, this was Grade 12 and so unfortunately, they will not be able to go an international field trip,” Nagy said.

Edmonton Catholic Schools is working with the tour provider on refunds, Nagy said.

“Our understanding is that they may be out a few hundred for insurance and a deposit. But we are hoping to get all of the money back for parents.”

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The cancellations come after trips to Japan were cancelled by both school divisions in February.

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Nagy said the Catholic school division has never cancelled trips because of illness before. They have cancelled field trips because of terrorism-related incidents.

“It is getting a little more difficult because of the international scene, and depending what can happen, these trips could be cancelled at any moment.”

On Tuesday, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, medical officer of health with Alberta Health, sent a letter to all school boards, staff and parents in the province stating the risk of COVID-19 exposure in Alberta is low.

Hinshaw also stressed that they are prepared, should COVID-19 come to Alberta.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: How to protect yourself

As of Wednesday, there were no confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 in Alberta. As of Feb. 28, 173 people had been tested for the virus, all of which resulted in negative outcomes.

There have been 33 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Canada as of Wednesday afternoon.

There are currently several active travel advisories in place, with each country under a different level of risk. The countries include China, Hong Kong, Iran, Japan, northern Italy, Singapore and South Korea. For more information on the travel notices, visit Health Canada’s website.