President of the Alberta Teachers’ Association, Jason Schilling, says Lethbridge residents need to understand the seriousness of cases of COVID-19 found in schools.
“I know they might say, ‘Well, you have one case at this school,’ but one case has a big impact on the rest of the school community.
“That could mean five or six teachers are gone. It could mean up to 100 students are gone, and then that impacts families beyond that as well.”
On Friday, Winston Churchill High School was added to the provincial watch list for having five cases where COVID-19 could have been acquired or transmitted in the school.
Officials say more than 285 students have been impacted as a result.
Since the start of the school year, Lethbridge School Division officials say they’ve had 102 staff members mandated to isolate, including student teachers.
Currently, a total of 51 staff members are in mandatory isolation, which includes 34 teachers and 17 support staff.
Holy Spirit Catholic School Division officials say they have five combined active cases at Catholic Central High School and St. Catherine’s school in Picture Butte, Alta. Those cases have resulted in the current isolation of 90 staff and students.
“Teachers are carrying that extra stress and that extra burden with that and it’s making things difficult and challenging for them,” he explained.
“Our own surveying of our membership tells us that 94 per cent of our teachers are exhausted at the end of the day.”
Schilling says these results are concerning to him when thinking about sustainability in schools without a plan for the remainder of the school year. He says some options include cancelling all diploma and provincial exams or having substitute teachers in contracted reserve for each division.
Schilling also says it’s important to remember that cases in schools are reflective of community spread.
“We all have a job as a community to keep those numbers down and to make sure that we’re making wise choices as to who we’re interacting with and how we’re interacting so we can protect everyone in our community,” Schilling said.
“We don’t want to see cases spread in schools. We don’t want to get into a situation where we’re in a lockdown like we were in March and move everything online.”
The most recent addition to the list of affected schools in Lethbridge is Wilson Middle School, where an outbreak was declared on Sunday.