Calgary student tests positive for COVID-19 at Catholic summer school
Case renews scrutiny of plan for in-person classes for all Alberta students this fall
The Calgary Catholic School District confirms a student attending summer school at St. Francis High School has tested positive for COVID-19 and says the school will remain open.
"The student, teacher and class members have been instructed to quarantine for 14 days as per Alberta Health Services (AHS) guidelines," Sandra Borowski, senior communication specialist with the Catholic district, said in an email to CBC.
"We are working closely with AHS as they are investigating to determine where the student contracted the illness and who the student has been in contact with since. We will be conducting a deep clean of the school and will continue with our enhanced cleaning protocols moving forward. The school will remain open for the remainder of summer school."
The student was attending St. Francis High School, which is one of two schools in the Catholic system operating summer school in Calgary. The other is Bishop O'Byrne Senior High School. Both schools have enacted strict social distancing guidelines.
Bryan Szumlas, chief superintendent of the Calgary Catholic School District, has said the district's summer school has been operating under Scenario 2 re-entry rules, and limiting students to 14 per classroom space. Under Scenerio 1, which the province has announced will happen in the fall, there will be more students per classroom.
The government's guide for school re-entry under Scenario 1 has several specific recommendations, including cohorting classes where possible, implementing social distancing techniques, staggering breaks and class times as well as drop-off and pickup times and locations, and implementing assigned seating on school buses.
The Catholic summer school classes are one measure of how well the government's re-entry plan will work in the fall, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said last week.
"They ran in-person summer school and used the guidelines that were in our re-entry plan and they've been able to function very, very well," LaGrange said. "We know, given just a snapshot through the summer school program, that we can extrapolate that and and feel that it will work with all of our schools across the province."
Premier Jason Kenney said the province was also told about a staff member who was symptomatic earlier in the summer, but their results came back negative.
"I've been clear, as was Dr. Hinshaw when we announced our intention for a safe reopening of the schools, that there will be positive cases," Kenney said in a press briefing Tuesday. "With three-quarters of a million students, and tens of thousands of teachers and staff, it's inevitable that there will be some cases."
Kenney pointed to successful school reopenings in other parts of the world.
"When we look to jurisdictions like, for example, Taiwan and South Korea, very densely populated countries who have continued to operate their schools without limitations over the past five months, we've seen no significant outbreaks. And that's generally been the case across jurisdictions that either maintained their schools or reopened them," Kenney said.
Kenney added that the school reopening program was designed in careful consultation with the chief medical officer for health, with Alberta Health Services, with superintendents, school boards, parents, councils and others.
"Very clear guidelines have been provided to the school so the reality is simply this: as long as COVID is a reality, there are going to be infections," Kenney said. "That challenge for us is to ensure that those infections don't reach a peak which overwhelms our health-care system."
Risk is small, Kenney says
Kenney said though cases have been rising, the evidence suggests that younger people are less affected by COVID infections.
"The younger you go, the less impactful it is. In fact, my understanding is that since the pandemic started in Canada five months ago, we've seen only one fatality of anybody under the age of 20," Kenney said.
"And I don't believe any fatalities under the age of 72 in Alberta since, I believe, since April. So the the chances of children becoming negatively affected by the virus are not non-existent, but they are very small statistically, which is I believe one of the reasons why our public health officials have given us the green light to proceed with the opening of the schools."
With files from Lucie Edwardson