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Should Alberta consider extending winter break to curb COVID-19 spread?

Last Updated Nov 17, 2020 at 6:49 am MST

CALGARY (660 NEWS) – Would starting the winter break early help curb COVID-19 infections during the holidays?

It’s an idea that’s being discussed in some parts of Canada and one advocacy group says it can work in Alberta.

Support our Students (SOS) Alberta believes extending the break is something school boards should consider due to rising case numbers.
However, Wing Li with SOS said it’s only a short-term solution.

“For the long term, what we really need to see is more long-term measures like added funding because we think in-school learning is important, it’s just not being done properly without the resources right now.”

The Council of Ontario Directors of Education recently recommended an extra few days or a week be added to the year-end break for the safety of students and staff in that province.

WATCH: Kids might be home for four weeks during the holidays

 

The idea is also being considered by the Quebec government, where 20 per cent of new cases in the last two weeks have come from schools.

However, Premier Francois Legault did express reluctance to take that step, saying it would happen only as a last resort.

According to SOS Alberta, 698 schools have reported COVID-19 cases since the school year started with 444 reporting in the last two weeks.

Alberta Health Services (AHS) says there’s been 141 reports of in school transmission with 1,031 active cases in schools.

“It is really a safety and health issue at this point,” said Li.

Last week, the Calgary Catholic School District said nearly 6,000 students and staff were in isolation because of possible exposure while the Calgary Board of Education (CBE) reported 2,000 students and 195 staff were in isolation.

The CBE said it has not considered closing early for winter break or extending it but instead will follow public health guidelines.

In an email sent to 660 NEWS, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said her department is not aware of any school board wishing to extend the winter break.

“We are in regular contact with school boards to deal with the challenges that arise during learning in a COVID-19 environment,” the statement reads. “Local school authorities set their school calendar and have the flexibility and autonomy to adjust their calendars to meet local needs.”

“We will continue to follow the advice of the chief medical officer of health and we are ready to make changes when needed based on her advice.”

 

-With files from Pam Seatle, CityNews Toronto