Advocacy group calls for contact tracing to return to Alberta schools

An Alberta education advocacy group is urging the province to reinstate a robust contact tracing systems at schools, citing rapidly rising COVID-19 cases and the highly contagious Delta variant.

Support Our Students (SOS) says the lack of data about cases at schools in the first week of classes for many, means parents are no longer notified of exposures.

“Parents and guardians need to know if their child was exposed to a highly contagious disease to make complex decisions for their families in an informed and proactive manner,” said Medeana Moussa, executive director of SOS.

"The government is disempowering families by withholding information."

The province’s guidelines no longer includes contact tracing for positive cases at schools but investigate and consider additional measures if a school has an absentee rate of 10 per cent or higher. In the event of an outbreak, families will get a letter from AHS through the school.

According to the CBE, three of it’s 35 schools that run on a modified calendar are considered outbreak status including Wood’s Homes, Niitsitapi Learning Centre and Cappy Smart School.

The Calgary Catholic School District says it will still let other parents and staff know about a positive case if they’re notified by a parent that their child has tested positive for COVID-19, but the Calgary Board of Education says it is following Alberta Health’s directive and won’t be notifying parents.

Last school year, SOS used public data to operate a COVID-19 school tracker tool, which it says was viewed more than four million times. However, because there is no longer contact tracing being done at schools, the group says it doesn’t have the information to operate the tracker and in a statement, says this is “creating a massive information black hole and throwing families into even more tumultuous uncertainty.”

Alberta Teachers Association president Jason Schilling has also recently asked the province to reinstate contact tracing at schools and mandatory masking.

Two quick takes--Health Minister says masks reduce the spread of the virus but it doesn't apply to schools...where is the mythical data that says covid doesn't spread in schools? Second, schools need contact tracing information to help protect those learning and working there.

— jason schilling (@schill_dawg) September 3, 2021

On Friday the province announced a mask mandate for indoor public places across the province with the exception of schools which can make their own COVID-19 policies.

Both the CCSD and CBE have made masks a requirement for this school year.