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What Happens When There is a Confirmed COVID-19 Case in our Division

October 27, 2020

Similar to many school divisions across the province, St. Paul Education has had two confirmed COVID-19 cases among our students and staff in one of our schools. As part of our commitment to clear, transparent, and timely communication throughout the pandemic, we are sharing the following information about what happens when Alberta Health Services (AHS) confirms a positive case(s) in a school.

According to the processes laid out by AHS, when a case in a school is confirmed, AHS contacts the school authority and provides advice and guidance on next steps. However, given the recent increase of cases in Alberta, AHS resources are stretched thin and we may learn about a positive case from a parent before receiving notification from AHS. Receiving confirmation from a parent is very helpful. If a parent shares information about a positive case, the Division will immediately contact AHS to confirm the case and seek direction to ultimately determine if there are any school related ‘close contacts’ requiring isolation. This means that parents may receive close contact information and isolation requirements from the school. As per AHS documentation, the families will also be contacted by AHS workers who will confirm the requirements of isolation.

Except for families of children who have been identified as a ‘close contact’, all other families in the school will be notified that a positive case(s) has been identified. Please note that as per AHS guidelines, if a child was NOT infectious while attending school, there will be no contact tracing or isolation required. In this case, no general letter will be sent to parents.

It is important to note that while schools may be required to share student/staff information with AHS Public Health under the Public Health Act, school staff and administration are required to protect the privacy of students/staff members. As such, personal information that may identify individuals who are COVID-19 cases to other members of the school community or to the public cannot be disclosed.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does the school determine contact tracing lists?

Principals use their class lists, schedules and sign-in sheets to identify close contacts.

If the student rides the bus, principals request the bus seating plan from Transportation.

Close contacts in schools are defined by AHS as follows:

  • Regardless of mask use, the entire classroom is considered to be close contacts of the case and all individuals must be quarantined for 14 days from last contact with the case.

  • Any individuals who were within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes would be considered close contacts, regardless of mask use.

  • Any individuals who shared food or drink with the case would be considered a close contact.

  • Any individuals who had close physical contact, such as hugging, would be considered close contacts, regardless of mask use.

  • Any individuals seated in the 2 rows in front of, behind, or beside the positive case on a school bus.

Note the school can only provide contact tracing for scheduled school activities.

Close contacts outside the school will be traced by AHS.

What information is shared with the families of close contacts?

Principals and AHS will not share the names of the individuals who have tested positive beyond internal staff who need to know.

The information that will be shared is that someone in the child’s cohort (or class) has tested positive and as per the health measures, close contacts must be informed and begin isolation.

Families will be given a specific date when their child can return to school.

Do students in isolation still do their classes?

Yes, we are continually working to improve our at-home and online learning options, and students can continue to learn from home while they are isolated. Remember that the teachers of students who have been identified as close contacts are probably isolated too. Division teachers use Google Classroom and the teachers will continue to provide assignments. Teachers can also connect with students by Google Meet, email, or phone. In some cases, teachers may send home print packages.

Are classrooms/buses cleaned differently when there is confirmed exposure?

Enhanced cleaning is in place for all locations.

  • Throughout the day, high-touch areas are disinfected by custodial staff (bathrooms, light switches, door knobs, etc)

  • After students have left for the day, a thorough cleaning of the whole school occurs

If a case is confirmed, additional deep cleaning is done for all surfaces with special attention to any involved classrooms.

  • Electrostatic sprayers are used daily to disinfect irregular surfaces

  • Caretakers maintain a daily log of all cleaning

What can parents and students do to help?