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Edmonton Catholic Schools taking COVID-19 contact tracing into its own hands

Click to play video: 'Edmonton Catholic Schools to notify families of COVID-19 exposures' Edmonton Catholic Schools to notify families of COVID-19 exposures
On Wednesday, Edmonton Catholic Schools said it will begin sending home notifications when a case of COVID-19 is reported to the school. As Kim Smith explains on the noon news, families are also asked to tell their school when a child tests positive for the virus – Sep 15, 2021

In the absence of the province notifying close contacts, Edmonton Catholic School Division is asking parents to tell them when their kid tests positive for COVID-19 so the division can do the job themselves.

In a letter to parents Wednesday, Edmonton Catholic said it has been given authority by the Alberta government to exceed provincial guidelines in order to best serve and meet the needs of its schools.

“In light of the evolving circumstances in our community and our commitment to keeping families informed, we will begin sending notifications home should a case of COVID-19 be reported to our school administration,” the letter said.

“If your child has tested positive for COVID-19, we encourage you to let your school administration know.”

Read more: ‘We are a little bit left in the dark’: Edmonton school boards navigate pandemic protocols

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ECSD said when a school is made aware of a confirmed case of COVID-19 by a parent or guardian, administrators will share that information with the school community while keeping personal details confidential.

“We will likely not be aware of every COVID-19 case in our schools since self-reporting is voluntary.”

Read more: Edmonton school boards release back-to-school plans for 2021

The school division said Alberta Health Services will continue to investigate outbreaks in schools, which it would consider to be the case when the absentee rate greater than 10 per cent due to respiratory illness or influenza.

If a school has an outbreak, the board said AHS will send additional information to the school community.

Last year, AHS would notify school divisions of COVID-19 cases affecting students or staff members, but that is not happening this year as the province scaled back contact tracing over the summer.

Additionally, close contacts are no longer legally required to quarantine.

“This means, unlike last year, your child will not have to isolate if another student in their class tests positive,” the Edmonton Catholic letter said.

Read more: Parents share concerns about kids returning to school amid COVID-19 4th wave

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The Edmonton Public School Board has similar guidelines, however it has not explicitly asked parents to let them know if their kid has COVID-19.

“Staff and students may choose to notify a school about a positive COVID-19 test, but it is not required,” said the EPSB’s Back-to-School plan.

Global News reached out to Edmonton Public on Wednesday to see if that guidance has changed and was told schools will continue to inform families of known exposures, as the superintendent detailed in a letter to parents on the first day of class.

EPSB said since the start of the school year, the division has been asking families to inform their school if their child has a case of COVID-19 that has been confirmed by AHS.

“At this time, AHS has not confirmed any school outbreaks to our Division; however, we encourage you to reach out to AHS as outbreaks are determined by their team,” a spokesperson said.

Click to play video: 'First day back at school for thousands of Edmonton students' First day back at school for thousands of Edmonton students
First day back at school for thousands of Edmonton students – Sep 2, 2021

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