Weeks after the province introduced rules to prevent school boards from mandating masks and moving entire classrooms online, Calgary schools are moving forward with stricter health mitigations in an effort to reduce illness.
The Calgary Catholic School District announced an “Illness Mitigation Plan” this week, postponing or canceling large gatherings in schools with 10 percent or higher absence rates due to illness.
And the Calgary Board of Education confirmed Tuesday that school administrators are being asked to change school events or activities based on sickness and absenteeism rates in their school.
“Principals continue to work with their school communities based on their school context,” CBE spokeswoman Joanne Anderson said.
“This includes modifying certain school events and activities, such as moving parent-teacher conferences and school board meetings online, or adjusting or postponing some assemblies or extracurricular activities.”
CBE saw absenteeism rates improve this past week, with K-to-3 students averaging a nine percent absence rate, slightly higher than the overall seven percent absence rate across all schools. Two weeks ago, rates hovered between 10 and 12 percent.
Yet 42 public schools experience absenteeism rates of 10 percent or higher.
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By early Tuesday, up to 36 Catholic schools had sickness rates of 10 percent or more as the board sent a letter to families warning the mitigation plan would be in place until Christmas. But those numbers are also down from last week, when 47 schools had sickness rates of 10 percent or higher.
“As part of this plan, large group gatherings planned at schools listed on the CCSD Illness Dashboard that have more than 10 percent of students away with similar symptoms, or that have been declared by Alberta Health Services to be in outbreak status . postponed, absorbed or moved to virtual,” said CCSD spokesperson Manique Werapitiya-Galle.
Examples of large group gatherings include Christmas concerts, pep rallies, liturgies, athletic events or assemblies, she added.
“In those schools that are no more than 10 percent absenteeism, principals are being asked to reevaluate large group gatherings, encourage the use of masks and use their discretion about what is best for their school community.”
The new measures come nearly two weeks after Premier Danielle Smith announced new regulations to ensure what she called “normal” school environments, prevent school boards from implementing their own mask mandates, and ensure all students have access to personalized learning , regardless of how high absenteeism and sickness rates get.
Rise in respiratory diseases among children continues
Meanwhile, hospitals across the province continue to see a surge in respiratory illnesses among young children, a week after the Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary parked a trailer outside the emergency department to deal with patient flooding.
Smith held a news conference Tuesday announcing the province was working with the federal government to obtain five million bottles of pain medication for children — but no date was given for their arrival in pharmacies beyond “a few weeks.”
When asked if the province was doing anything to prevent illness in children, Smith told reporters she hoped questions would be more “on the subject,” saying the reason children’s hospitals are being raided is because families don’t have illnesses at home. cannot treat.
“People need to know when their child gets sick that they have the medication available so they can treat symptoms at home,” Smith said.
“Fever is scary for parents. If a child becomes febrile and dehydrated. . . it can lead to seizures in younger children, and it can be really serious.
“Our job is to make sure they have medication so they can treat fever at home.”
But Jason Schilling, president of the Alberta Teachers’ Association, said provincial underfunding, large classes and overcrowded schools are a big reason illness rates remain high.
Still, the proactive measures schools had earlier in the pandemic, including masking and online learning, are no longer available because of Smith’s regulations, he said.
“Schools need to be able to have all the tools at their disposal to address health and safety needs.”