Athabasca school moving classes online next week as COVID-19 outbreak grows to 47 cases

Edwin Parr Composite School has an outbreak of COVID-19 with 47 people testing positive as of Tuesday night.

468 students have been told to isolate after coming into close contact with a positive case

Edwin Parr Composite School in Athabasca is currently experiencing an outbreak of COVID-19 that has grown to 47 cases. (Aspen View Public Schools)

A northern Alberta school will move its classes online next week due to a growing COVID-19 outbreak.

There are 47 active COVID-19 cases tied to Edwin Parr Composite School in Athabasca, Aspenview Public Schools confirmed Tuesday night. The school has announced that students will move to online learning the week following spring break, April 6 to 9.

The COVID-19 cases linked to the outbreak at the Grade 7-12 school increased quickly, with two cases confirmed on March 24, and 20 confirmed four days later. 

Students and staff thought to have had close contact with those affected has needed to isolate including 468 students and 48 staff from Edwin Parr, 71 students from neighbouring schools and six bus drivers. The population of Athabasca is just under 3,000 people. 

Ross Hunter, communications officer for Aspenview Public Schools, said the outbreak is concerning for the school of about 700 students.

"It's definitely very significant," said Hunter. "As a division, we're very concerned; we know our school families and school communities are very concerned by this."

Hunter said the district is unable to confirm whether any of the cases are linked to variants. 

Casey Maguire-Neaves is a substitute teacher and mother of three sons, two of whom are in Grade 12 at Edwin Parr. They were not found to have been in close contact with anyone who tested positive. 

"My skin started to get that crawly feeling," Maguire-Neaves said. "I couldn't believe it skyrocketed that fast. I was absolutely shocked because our school has done a very good job of containing anytime there has been a confirmed case." 

She said her older sons will go back to the school to finish the year when it opens back up.

Elissa Ponich has two kids at Edwin Parr and two at nearby Landing Trail Intermediate School. Three of her children were told to isolate. 

"It can be a little worrisome, but it is what it is," said Ponich. "I think the kids have done exceptional."

She said it can be overwhelming to think about the impact it would have if one of her children tested positive, because they had been in contact with students on the bus and she had been in contact with people at work.