Jessica Morine is taking the week off work to take care of her eight-year-old daughter who is isolating after being exposed to the virus in her after-school program at École Mer et Monde.
That exposure is one of eight notices sent out to parents since Sept. 24 and there’s growing concern about spread within the Halifax school.
“I think with eight (exposure notices) the risk is growing for people to get it, for children who are unvaccinated,” she said.
Morine said parents have been sharing their concerns in online groups, and tracking how many classes have been impacted so far.
“I think there was a Grade 3 class moved online for a week last week. There’s at least one Grade 4 class that’s online, a Grade 1 class, a Grade 6 class, a Grade 7 class,” she said.
Conseil Scolaire Acadien Provincial would not provide details on exactly how many classes have moved to online learning or how many students are self-isolating.
It said in a statement Wednesday that “as of today, school is open and the students who are in self-isolation are being supported by the school.”
Morine said the school itself and her daughter’s teacher have been great, but trying to individually support so many students who have been forced into isolation is not easy and the current situation is not sustainable.
Her daughter, who has so far tested negative, will be able to return to school on Friday, but she said she worries about what happens after that.
“She’s in an after-school program with multiple children in multiple grades. It’s only a matter of time before she’s a close contact again and then we’re on isolation again,” Morine said.
While the mother of two said she acknowledges that in-classroom learning is best, with so many exposures she’d like to see the school closed to help stop any potential spread.
“What they need to do is a two-week reset, just a circuit breaker where everybody has a chance to flush out the cases that might be in there.”
Last week, Dr. Robert Strang announced that public health had decided to shut down elementary school Duc d’Anville in Clayton Park after that school had a similar number of exposure notices, but it was only after a staff member tested positive that one case lead to numerous exposures around the school.
“As with other situations, we’re containing to work with public health and working on doing the right thing for the school at the right time,” said Becky Druhan, Nova Scotia’s education minister.
“Closure is always an option, but it’s a last resort because we know the best place for students is in schools. ”
But at this point, Morine said she disagrees that the best place for students is in school.
“They’re terrified to go to school because they’re afraid to get it. So is that the healthiest place for them?”
Concerns over public health communication, policies
Throughout the last few weeks, Morine said school community members have been there to support each other. Parents have been sharing information online, and the school and staff have been working to communicate with families and keep students safe.
“But the overall consensus is we feel left out of the loop from public health,” Morine said.
“We feel like we don’t have enough information to make the decisions we need to make as far as our children are concerned.”
When exposure notices are sent out to parents, they only include information about the date there was an exposure at the school. There are no details on how many cases could be part of that exposure notice. If a student is a close contact, they will get a second letter informing them of that.
But Morine said she’d like to see more information on how many cases there are in the school and if or how they’re being transmitted.
“When this first started obviously it was just one case,” she said. “So the next case is that related to that case? If so, how is it related?
“Right now, because we don’t have any information, we’re left to believe there is community spread (within the school).”
The other concern that has been brought up by numerous parents is the self-isolation policy. Public health has told families that only those identified as being close contacts have to isolate — not their family members, even if there are other unvaccinated children in the household.
“I think it’s silly,” Morine said.
“Especially siblings, they are living together, they are sharing the same space, they are breathing the same air. … If my daughter has (COVID-19) and she were to pass it along to her sibling, then that sibling can attend school until they show symptoms and by that point, it’s too late.”
While the school remains open, it has partnered with public health to offer a rapid testing clinic on site on Thursday. The clinic is open to students and parents as well as school staff members.
In addition to that, testing kits are being distributed to all CSAP schools on Wednesday and will be given to students from pre-primary to Grade 6 this week. Those kits include four rapid tests that can be done at home and can help to detect any positive cases sooner.