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Concerns grow as students return to class

Last Updated Jan 11, 2021 at 1:30 pm MDT

Summary

Students haven't been in class since late December, spending the first week of January online

SOS Alberta says the province should release data showing that COVID-19 cases in school are negligible

CALGARY (660 NEWS) – School is back in session but who’s responsible for tracking down potential coronavirus cases should there be an outbreak?

Students are returning to the classroom Monday for the first time since late December with many parents worried about what happens if a child tests positive for COVID-19.

In a statement to 660 NEWS, a spokesperson for Alberta Health Services (AHS) said there is a dedicated team of contact tracers on hand should a positive test be found.

“This team has grown since the earlier return to school in the fall, and will continue to grow as more contact tracers are recruited,” the statement reads.

“Contact tracers conduct case investigations with parents/guardians of students, as well as teachers and school staff, when a COVID-19 case been determined.”

According to AHS, there are just over 1,250 contact tracers in the province with another 1,000 in training.

RELATED: Alberta students prepare to head to the classroom

Many parents though, are concerned that a return to in-person learning could put the province back to where it was in the fall where students and staff were isolating and some schools closed.

While the Alberta Teachers Association (ATA) prefers a return to the classroom, there is concern over contact tracing as many schools had to do that themselves last year.

“We know that our schools are only as safe as our communities and we need to have that working,” said ATA President Jason Schilling.

In early December, AHS said it was contacting and closing an average 370 cases per day. However, that number has increased to 600 cases per day for January.

Wing Li with the school advocacy group Support Our Students (SOS), said there is more anxiety in schools now because of delays in contact tracing and the new COVID-19 variant.

She added other provinces have seen lower numbers in schools.

“Ontario and Quebec have actually acknowledged that schools are a potential source and that’s a stark contrast to what we hear in our own government messaging.”

The organization is calling on the Education Minister to release data that proves that transmission in school is negligible.

 

With files from Carly Robinson, CityNews