St. Catherine Catholic School will temporarily move to remote learning from Jan. 24 to Feb. 1 pending further review of health data.
The Prince Albert Catholic School Division announced the decision in a media update sent out Thursday evening. This was done in alignment with recommendations from Public Health officials.
All students and families will receive information and instruction from their school staff through Edsby.
Education director Lorel Trumier said school staff have done an outstanding job creating safe learning and working environments over the past two years. However, the Omicron variant has complicated matters after Christmas and New Year’s.
She said the move to remote learning was in the best interest of the school, since more than 10 per cent of St. Catherince’s student population are not in school due to COVID.
“It’s highly transmissible and those increasing rates of numbers are going to eventually be reflective in our schools as well,” Trumier explained.
Trumier said they’ve been monitoring how illness affects attendance levels for many years when there are public health issues. They’ve looked at case numbers since March 2020 to help identify school settings that need to be watched for high levels of absenteeism.
She said the number of kindergarten and pre-kindergarten students who aren’t eligible for vaccination are pushing the numbers higher.
“We had a couple of classrooms that were starting to see that number increase to a point where it is in the best interest to look at about five days of school where they will be remote learning,” Trumier said.
She added that public health officials reached out and will now be monitoring all schools in the division even more closely.
“We reached a point where there were four schools that are going to be closely monitored and continue to be monitored and it is not going to change for any of our schools as far as doing this continuously,” she said.
When an outbreak has been declared, it is assumed that there is an ongoing risk of exposure within the school.
St. Francis, École Holy Cross, École St. Anne, and St. John Community School are also being monitored by Public Health for increasing rates of illness. Parents are reminded to prepare contingencies for remote learning if deemed necessary.
Additionally, parents from St, Francis received a notice of an outbreak and that a 10 per cent absenteeism rate had also been reached in the school.
Trumier explained that they have been trying to educate and inform families and have been transparent throughout the last two years.
The only received notice late Thursday afternoon that public health officials were monitoring some schools because of they were around the 10 per cent absenteeism mark.
“This preventative measure is in response to Public Health recommendations based on the increased rates of community transmission of COVID-19 and increased illness at the school,” the division explained in a press release.
As part of Public Health’s mitigation measures, a respiratory outbreak has been declared to make it easier to monitor the situation.
Trumier said they will continue to consult specifically with public health about the schools and see if there is anything that can be done to mitigate the spread.
“It is going to be really difficult to point to the school and, say, try something different because this is an airborne respiratory virus category one (and) very highly transmissible,” Trumier said. “We have got the best PPE…. Every single recommendation that public health has given us, we have implemented and we have done a great job.”
She added that with omicron and the high rates in the community the impact has reached the schools.
“There are some that don’t know they have got it and that’s going to be the state of affairs for a little while,” Trumier said. “(Chief Medical Health Officer) Dr. (Saqib) Shahab has indicated that is what it is going to be (monitoring) for the two to four weeks. We will keep doing everything we can to keep our students and staff in the best position to be safe and to learn.
“I think our staff and students have done a great job. Our families have been extremely cooperative,” she added.
Currently, in-person learning will continue at the other schools. Communications have been shared with the other school communities.
“We are continuing to communicate with families and we know that they have done a great job too. We know that rapid tests are available, widely available, we are lucky. We also encourage families to follow public health orders and guidance,” Trumier said.
She also thanked local Public Health officials.
“We also thank our public health officials for their continued hard work and diligence, as well as my staff and students, they have done a fantastic job,” she said.