4 central Alberta schools under investigation for COVID-19 outbreaks

Just barely into the new school year, some areas in the province with low vaccination rates are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks in schools.

There are four elementary schools in the Wild Rose School Division, two in Drayton Valley and two in Rocky Mountain House, currently being investigated for COVID-19 outbreaks.

According to Amanda Krumins, a spokesperson for the government, all schools in the province are required to monitor absenteeism rates.

If the rate is higher than 10 per cent it has to be reported to Alberta Health Services and an investigation will be conducted.

Krumins noted an outbreak investigator will then contact the school to collect additional information about the types of symptoms, onset of symptoms, number of students and staff that are sick and the school's total population.

“If there is a 10 per cent or greater absenteeism rate that includes similar symptoms, AHS Public Health will declare an outbreak,” Krumins added.

By population, Drayton Valley and Rocky Mountain House have some of the highest rates of COVID-19 in Alberta, according to the government’s website.

Current numbers show 47 per cent of eligible people in Drayton Valley and 50 per cent in Rocky Mountain House have at least one COVID-19 dose.

COVID-19 cases in schools are concerning enough for parents, but one in particular says she feels like they’re being left in the dark about what’s going on.

“It’s a little unnerving,” Sam Habetler, told CTV News Edmonton.

“Just like we’ve kind of all been for the last couple of years now.”

At this time, parents are not required to tell the school if their child tests positive for COVID-19.

“Our board had made a decision to follow the regulations and the guidelines given to us by those who have been appointed in our province to do that role,” said Brad Volkman, superintendent for the Wild Rose School Division.

Volkman said he believes the government has the best interests of his students and staff in mind with its current approach.

“We saw them pivot last year at different times, the government, when they needed to and so again we’re trusting that if this is not going to be effective, that they will... They will do what’s necessary.”

“The whole province is divided,” Habetler added. “Especially over this because no one is sure what to trust, or who you can actually listen to, or who has your best interests at heart.”

The provincial website does not currently list outbreaks in schools.

If AHS declares an outbreak, Krumins said it will recommend control measures to “reduce” ongoing transmission.

The current measures include:

  • Health screening
  • Increasing frequency of cleaning
  • Mask recommendations
  • Limiting groups and extra-curricular activities
  • Creating cohorts
  • Limiting student movement

According to Krumins, it takes roughly one day to complete a public health assessment before declaring an outbreak.

With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Jeremy Thompson