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Edmonton Catholic Schools to stop notifying of COVID-19 cases during Christmas break

Click to play video: 'School contact tracing concerns heading into the holidays' School contact tracing concerns heading into the holidays
The upcoming Christmas break is shedding light on just now much families rely in schools to let them know about cases before Alberta Health Services does. Lisa MacGregor reports – Dec 15, 2020

The Christmas break coming up for students in Edmonton is shedding light on how much families are relying on schools to let them know about COVID-19 cases before Alberta Health Services does.

For most families, schools have been the first to let them know about close contact cases.

But now, the holiday break means contract tracing will also be halted by the Edmonton Catholic School Division.

In a letter sent out to parents, Edmonton Catholic Schools said, “From the evening of Friday, Dec. 18 until end of day Saturday, Jan. 2, the Edmonton Catholic School Division will not notify families regarding any new COVID-19 cases in your school community.”

Alberta Teacher’s Association president, Jason Schilling, said that break in providing information on cases to parents is concerning.

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“I think that, that information needs to get out to the community and to people who are in the community because we know that what we’ve seen in terms of community spread will echo what we see in schools,” Schilling said.

Read more: Entire Edmonton Catholic elementary school moves to online learning after COVID-19 cases

In a survey done by the ATA of its members, it shows that one in three teachers have been quarantined or isolated and half of Alberta teachers have had to contact families in their communities due to COVID-19.

In comments collected by the ATA from their members, one said, “85 tremendous hours of work in evenings and on weekends to complete contact tracing on behalf of or in lieu of AHS.”

Another stated, “I was hired to be an educational leader not as a contact tracer.”

“We are being asked to do something we are not trained to do and explain things we know very little about,” one member wrote.

In a statement to Global News, the press secretary for the education minister Adriana LaGrange said “the ATA’s survey data reflects those who self-selected to respond, and does not provide an accurate reflection of province-wide sentiment.”

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Meanwhile, Alberta Health said they’re working on a solution for notifying parents about COVID-19 cases related to schools over the break.

“If we’re not able to access those lists we’ll have to consider what other options we have to be able to make that information available to potential contacts,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said Tuesday.

Read more: COVID-19: School board chair says she got no ‘heads up’ from Alberta government about new measures impacting schools

Premier Jason Kenney said the province is also continuing to hire contact tracers but they need to have a certain level of experience.

“At a certain level they’ve been setting aside positions for people with some degree of medical training, for nurses and other certified professionals, so these are not all jobs that just regular people can step into and get soft-touch training,” Kenney said.

Click to play video: 'Edmonton high school students concerned about going back to online learning' Edmonton high school students concerned about going back to online learning
Edmonton high school students concerned about going back to online learning – Nov 27, 2020

Parent Lauren Pham has two kids now in quarantine due to a close contact at an Edmonton Public School. She was first notified by her kids’ school about having to quarantine and then got a letter from AHS a few days later.

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“I got a call directly from the school. actually going through all of what had happened, the protocols that were going to take place,” Pham said. “The week before Christmas break kind of helps break the ice too, it’s not two weeks of full online learning.”

Pham added she has been staying home and sticking to curbside pickups in case one of her children is asymptomatic.

In the last two days in Edmonton alone, more than 1,000 students have been told they have had a classroom exposure and need to be isolating.

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