Muskoday First Nation Community School will close for the next two weeks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 after 43 school staff and parents returned from an education conference in Edmonton.
Joan Bear, Muskoday First Nation’s executive director, stressed that the move is purely precautionary. The community has no known cases of COVID-19. All 43 people who attended the conference started self-monitoring for symptoms after arriving back in Muskoday on Friday.
“We said, ‘well, perhaps we should take some precautionary measures—make sure kids aren’t put at risk and then go home and spread it all around,’” Bear said on Friday. “We said, ‘let’s just flatten the whole contagion curve and make sure we have the precautionary measures in place.’”
Classes will resume on Monday, March 30. Bear said that date is unlikely to change, even if there are no signs of Coronavirus before then.
The Muskoday education authority plans to make up the lost days during Easter break and, if necessary, extend the school year in June.
Muskoday First Nation students who attend high school in Prince Albert will still be bused in as normally scheduled.
Bear said the community began reviewing their emergency pandemic response plan in October. The COVID-19 outbreak will be its first test.
In addition to the school closure, a number of community events have also been cancelled. That list includes the Muskoday Winter Festival, an Elder’s Steak Night Fundraiser and a dry dance. The community has also set up a Pandemic Emergency Operations Centre, and has limited chief and council travel outside the community.
“We’ve been using every form of communication possible, like our websites and door-to-door drop-offs of the news release for people who don’t necessarily have internet or phone, and then phone trees and things like that,” Bear said. “We have been prepared for this for quite some time.”
MFN has encouraged all band members to avoid mass gatherings and public events. The community also held a COVID-19 information question and answer session on March 12.