A case of COVID-19 has been confirmed in Vegreville, according to discussions at the March 11 St. Paul Education Regional Division (SPERD) board meeting.
Following a lengthy discussion about COVID-19, precautions that are being taken within the division, and a motion to cancel an international trip that included students from the area, Superintendent Glen Brodziak said he had just received confirmation that a parent to a student from a school in Vegreville has COVID-19.
Brodziak noted that for the St. Paul area, “it’s business as usual” and schools across the province aren’t shutting down.
The superintendent said the division is monitoring the situation and seeking advice from “every single avenue.” He noted the safety of students, staff and parents is always the division’s number one priority.
This weekend, St. Paul will play host to a number of basketball teams during the Northeast Alberta Schools’ Athletic Association 3A boys and girls zone competitions. Brodziak noted that student athletes would not be shaking hands after the game, as a precaution. But, he also acknowledged that basketball is a game with close contact, where many people are touching the ball.
“Let’s be aware. Let’s be cautious,” said Brodziak, adding, “Let’s be reasonable, but let’s be careful.”
As of Wednesday, field trips such as ski trips in the area, were still taking place, along with sporting events such as basketball zones.
A meeting earlier in the week was held with parents and students from Two Hills, Myrnam and Ashmont schools involved in the international trip that would have seen the group travel to Spain and France over spring break. While talk last week still pointed to some parents feeling it was OK for students to travel, the attitude this week was very much unanimous in that students should not travel.
“Would I want my kid going anywhere right now?” asked Brodziak, as he spoke with the board about the issue during Wednesday’s meeting. The number of cases confirmed in Spain and France are changing rapidly, and many of the destinations where students would have visited are closed to the public due to COVID-19.
While there were talks of allowing a trip within North America, the risk to students going through airports was still a factor.
It is mandatory for all SPERD students to have insurance for international trips organized through schools, but individuals will still have to apply to get their funds back, or they can choose to receive a voucher for a future trip, to be used within a specific length of time. Each student paid about $4,300 for the trip.
Parents were very understanding of the situation, noted Brodziak, adding, the division waited until the last possible minute to make its decision.
“We did not take this lightly,” said Starosielski.
The division had previously received a very strong recommendation from its insurance company to consider cancelling all international travel. Brodziak said of about 80 school trips involving about 30 school divisions in the province, an overwhelming majority of the trips are being cancelled.
Following an update on Wednesday afternoon from the provincial government, Tim McMillan, assistant director, communications with Alberta Health, said he could not confirm the identity of any individual, due to patient confidentiality.
The update from the province did note one woman has been confirmed to have COVID-19 in the Central Zone.
"I can tell you that when someone tests positive for COVID-19, AHS immediately conducts a risk assessment of anyone who may have come in close contact with an individual. Anyone who may be at risk is asked to isolate for 14 days," said McMillan. "In these cases, anyone who is not contacted is not at risk."
He added, "We want all Albertans to understand that, if someone has tested positive, steps are immediately taken to isolate them and anyone at risk, so there is no risk to the public health."