By Kevin J. Sabo
For the Independent
After a challenging beginning to the school year, the students and teachers of Clearview Public Schools are taking a much-deserved Christmas break.
While most post-secondary schools have switched to either a fully online program, or an online and in-person hybrid, elementary and high schools continue to meet in person, with a variety of new policies and procedures.
First off, per a Government of Alberta mandate, all Grade seven to 12 students are required to wear a mask covering mouth and nose while in common areas of school buildings and in situations where they are unable to socially distance themselves, such as while doing group work.
Secondly, students and staff are required to hand sanitize when they enter and exit school buildings, and individual classrooms.
“There’s lots of hand sanitizing going on,” said Clearview Public Schools Superintendent Brenda MacDonald.
“But I truly believe it’s been instrumental in keeping our students and staff safe.”
Teachers are also required to wear a mask in common areas and while in close proximity to students, though they may remove them when they are teaching at the front of the class.
Another change that Clearview has made to their policies is that people not part of a grade cohort, such as a principal checking in on a class, are required to hand sanitize upon entry, wear a mask throughout, and are only permitted to remain in the classroom for a maximum of 15 minutes.
“(The guidelines) come from Alberta Education and Alberta Health Services,” said MacDonald.
“We try following them as strictly as possible.”
Thanks to the policies and procedures in place inside Clearview, there has only been four cases of COVID-19 identified amongst the student body, and those were shown to be community transmissions. Thanks to the guidelines, no transmission between students has been recorded.
In the event that a student is identified as positive for COVID-19, the parents or the student notify the principal of their school, who will contact either MacDonald, the superintendent or Mark Siemens, the Clearview Occupational Health & Safety Officer.
One of the two, depending on who gets the call, will contact Alberta Health Services, or the Centre for Disease Control, providing all information possible and then wait for a return phone call for follow up information.
While waiting for the follow-up call, the principal and their school team will try to figure out all possible close contacts.
If a positive case is a transportation student, the transportation director is also contacted to figure out where the student is in the bus seating plan, and parents and students of the row in front, row behind, and three rows beside are contacted to let them know they’ve been a close contact.
With identified close contacts, students need to isolate at home for 14 days, and Clearview Public Schools does recommend that students get tested.
“We recommend that they go for a test,” said MacDonald.
“But it is the right of the parents not to.”
In all cases where students may be a close contact, a letter goes home to parents letting them know what the first date of quarantine is, and the day the students may return to school.
In addition, due to being a close contact, the teacher generally will quarantine as well, beginning to teach online from home.
While students are quarantining, they are expected to participate in online learning, through the Google Classroom portal used by Clearview.
“It’s an opportunity to learn from home,” said MacDonald.
“It is teacher-directed online learning. Yes, we’re out with COVID-19 but we’re still learning.”
Unfortunately, the success that Clearview Public Schools has had in keeping COVID-19 out comes at a significant cost, which will be explored next week.