About 1,300 students at Calgary high school sent home for 2 weeks after COVID-19 cases disrupt staffing
All Grade 10 & 11 students at Nelson Mandela High School sent home until Nov. 30
About 1,313 students at Nelson Mandela High School in northeast Calgary have moved to online learning for 14 days due to staffing issues after the school was notified about a number of positive COVID-19 cases.
In a letter addressed to parents on Nov. 16, school principal Christos Sagriotis said that many Grade 10 and 11 students and some staff members have been identified as a close contacts of one of the cases, and are required to isolate.
Because of staffing capacity issues, all Grade 10 and 11 students at the high school will now be moved to online learning from Nov. 17 until the 27, the letter said.
The students will resume in-person classes on Nov. 30.
"This will help to ensure we are able to provide focused instructional support for students and allow for consistent instruction in all courses," the letter said.
Grade 12 students will continue to attend the school.
The closure comes as Alberta broke another pair of grim records on Monday, reporting 20 more COVID-19 deaths, by far the most ever in a single day. That record came with another one, as the province tallied 10,031 active cases of the illness.
Across Alberta, 264 people were being treated in hospital for the illness, including 57 who are in ICU beds.
On Monday, the province reported 860 new cases, and had a positivity rate of about seven per cent.
CBE struggling to cover about 10 per cent of absences
Nelson Mandela High School is not the only Calgary school that has been forced to send students home en masse due to the coronavirus. Last week, for example, all Grade 12 students at John Diefenbaker High School in northwest Calgary were told to stay home and take online classes for two weeks after a number of positive cases of COVID-19 were identified.
On Monday, the Calgary Board of Education told CBC News that it has filled approximately 94 per cent of sub jobs since September.
However, representatives said that over the last 10 school days, that number has been somewhat lower at approximately 89 per cent.
Meanwhile, the Calgary Catholic School District (CCSD) has been able to acquire coverage for about 88 per cent of its absences with substitutes, and similarly, has an unfilled gap of about 10 per cent.
On Nov. 13 the CCSD alerted parents that about 6,000 students and teachers went into self-isolation due to having a close contact with someone infected with COVID-19. The number decreased to 4,000 by Monday, but the district opted to go forward with halting extracurricular activities to flatten its curve.
Jason Schilling, the president of the Alberta Teachers' Association, said he is concerned the school year will not be sustainable for long.
He has heard that as school staffing has thinned, teachers and principals have stepped in to teach classes that are not their own.
"In some jurisdictions such as Edmonton and Calgary, it's extremely difficult to get substitute teachers. And it's been hard on schools because teachers and principals are having to cover for other teachers," Schilling said.
"They lose their prep time because they're not able to get subs into the building."
With files from Lucie Edwardson and Janet French