BONNYVILLE - Following a number of absences being reported due to illness, Alberta Health Services (AHS) declared a COVID-19/respiratory illness outbreak at Bonnyville Centralized High School, earlier this month.
"Alberta Health Services declared the outbreak after we reported absences due to illness were greater than 10 per cent and that included cases of COVID-19 disclosed to us by individuals," confirmed Nicole Garner, communications officer with NLPS.
After reporting the high rate of absenteeism to AHS, the school division was directed to send a letter to parents. The letter includes an "outbreak number" that individuals can use when booking a test to help with the outbreak investigation.
"Staff and students who are close contacts of a case of COVID-19 are not required to quarantine," according to NLPS.
The school division also decided to do an enhanced cleaning of the entire school.
"This is in addition to the daily cleaning that occurs every evening, and the cleaning and disinfecting of high touch surfaces and areas done by our day cleaners throughout the day," explains Garner. She adds, "We are continuing to monitor absences due to illness at BCHS, as well as all of our other schools, and we continue to be in contact with Alberta Health Services to determine what additional steps may be required to address the outbreak."
The school posted information to its website regarding the outbreak on Sept. 10.
Masks continue to be mandatory for students and staff at BCHS in non-instructional areas, as is the case across the province, following the Sept. 15 provincial update and renewed public health measures that were announced.
"We have also not opened up our schools for use by outside community groups to reduce traffic through our facilities," says Garner.
The school division continues to follow guidelines set out by the province, including:
- Asking all students, staff and visitors to stay home when sick and completing the daily checklist before entering any school facilities.
- Maintaining HVAC systems in accordance with manufacturer guidelines and regularly circulating fresh air while maintaining comfortable temperatures for students and staff.
- Regular cleaning of all schools including disinfecting of high touch surfaces continue to take place throughout the day.
- promoting hand hygiene, including making hand sanitizer available throughout schools and promoting hand sanitization and hand washing with students throughout the day, also continues to be a focus.
When asked if the school division has received any feedback from parents regarding the change in guidelines and rules around COVID-19, Garner says there have been questions from parents "because the notification of cases of COVID is different from last year."
Last school year, AHS notified school divisions of cases connected to schools and letters were sent home directing close contacts to isolate. That isn't being done this year.
NLPS is now working on a process to inform parents when there is a confirmed COVID-19 case at a school. More information will be shared soon, says Garner.