Edmonton·New

COVID-19 exposure sends Edmonton elementary school classes online

Elementary students and staff at a west-Edmonton school have switched to online learning after most people in the school were potentially exposed to someone with COVID-19.

Staff member who tested positive had been in contact with almost all students

Lauren Pham has two children attending David Thomas King school, Isabella in Grade 6 and Atlas in Grade 8. Pham said she was impressed at how prepared the school was to pivot to online classes. (Submitted by Lauren Pham)

Elementary students and staff at a west-Edmonton school have switched to online learning after most people in the school were potentially exposed to someone with COVID-19.

Edmonton Public Schools spokesperson Anna Batchelor said a David Thomas King school staff member had recently tested positive for COVID-19.  

Batchelor said the staff member had "specialized role" and had been contact with most of the students. School administrators determined 389 of the school's 461 elementary students should isolate as a precaution.

Grade 7 to 9 students who attend the school have already been learning remotely since Nov. 30, when the provincial government ordered all junior and senior high students home.

David Thomas King is the first Edmonton public school that has sent all elementary students back to remote learning this school year.

The school is also one of 16 in the province that have elementary students who are learning at home because of COVID, according to Michael Forian, press secretary to Education Minister Adriana LaGrange.

Batchelor said the students will be learning through a combination of virtual meetings with teachers, paper packages sent home and some small group work, depending on the grade level.

Teacher tested positive

Lauren Pham has two children attending David Thomas King in Grades 6 and 8, and a third child in high school.

She received an email on Saturday saying a teacher who moved from classroom to classroom had tested positive and that all classes were moving online as a precaution. Her daughter Isabella is now isolating for two weeks as a precaution.

Pham said she was impressed at how prepared the school was to pivot quickly to online classes.

"You would think that the transition within 24 hours, you know, of getting a call, 'Oh, your kid's not coming to school,' would have been chaotic, but by Sunday they already had emails sent out saying, if anybody needs online learning packages and it's too difficult to print out at home, they have pickup," she said Tuesday.

With three kids now learning at home, computers and internet bandwidth is now a hot commodity. Juggling work from home with helping her kids has also been a challenge, she says.

Other schools affected

In November, St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Elementary had to temporarily switch to online classes when three staff members tested positive for COVID-19.

St. Margaret Catholic School in Calgary also pivoted to online learning on Monday after a COVID-19 outbreak.

Alberta schools are taking extra precautions during the pandemic, such as regular hand washing and hand sanitizing. Students must also wear masks when they're not seated facing forward in class. Still exposures have forced some schools to send all students and staff home temporarily. (Nathan Gross/CBC)

As of Monday, at least 450 Alberta schools, or 19 per cent, have had at least one identified case of COVID-19. There are outbreaks in 298 of those schools.

Most students will begin a two-week holiday break beginning Dec. 19. All Alberta students will learn remotely from Jan. 4 to 8 to prevent reintroduction of coronavirus to schools following the winter break.

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