An hour after the Government of Alberta was calling for a restriction on events of more than 250 people to reduce the spread of the Caronavirus, Northern Lights Public School officials and administrators from Lac La Biche's Aurora Middle School were calling parents of students on an educational band class field trip to West Edmonton Mall, informing them that the trip would be cut short.
Effective this afternoon, the Alberta government is asking all large gatherings or international events in the province to be cancelled.
"There is a window of opportunity for Alberta to slow the spread of the virus, and thereby protect the health of Albertans," Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's Chief Medical Officer of Health, said at a COVID-19 update this afternoon. "The steps we take now and in the days ahead will help determine the severity of this outbreak for Alberta."
The Aurora Grade 7 and 8 Band class students left on Thursday morning for their two-day field trip that included professional instruction at the Grant MacEwan Conservatory of Music and thier own performance at West Edmonton Mall. The trip also calls for an overnight stay in the city, visits to the mall's water park and Galaxy Land, as well as an evening outing to the Jubilations Dinner theatre. Many of the students raised the funds to attend the trip with a fundraiser selling fresh local produce.
The students were expected to be back in Lac La Biche for pickup on Friday at 8 pm. But the changes to their schedule could see that timeframe altered by four or more hours.
Following the province's announcement, calling for gatherings of more than 250 people to be restricted, school officials contacted the parents and guardians of each student on the trip, informing them that the planned visits to the water park and Galaxy Land would be taken off the agenda. The Jubilations Dinner Theatre show on Thursday night is still on because after checking, the room would have less than 200 people. The visit to Grant MacEwan's music conservatory will also remain on the schedule as the students will be in small groups on the tour.
On Thursday afternoon, Northern Lights Public Schools officials also released an update on their recent monitoring of regional and global event. Division officials say they are conferring with provincial officials on a regular basis to keep up to date on regulations, and to pass that information onto parents and guardians of the more than 6,000 students at 26 division schools.
"Northern Lights Public Schools officials released an update on recent days of monitoring the situation and hearing from provincial experts. This will affect activities such as school assemblies. We will also be reviewing any upcoming events that may include more than 250 people and will cancel them if needed. We continue to be in close contact with Alberta Health and Alberta Education and will be following any additional recommendations or directives for schools issued with respect to COVID-19," notes the update.
Explaining to kids the truth about Coronavirus
Included in the update are links to pertinent websites offering COVID-19 information. Included in those is a site that helps parents talk to their children about the pandemic. A link to that site can be found here.
Parents and guardians of the Aurora band class students are expected to be notified on Friday about a revised time of the field trip's return.