Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
On October 27th, Grasslands Public Schools released an update to their Back to School Plan, which details the various guidelines and protocols in place to protect students and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The plan is largely based on guidelines set in place last year by Alberta Health Services, said superintendent Scott Brandt. While some of the protocols are no longer mandatory as laid out by AHS, additional measures remain in place to ensure the safety of everyone in the division.
“When we started, we started kind of winding down last year and planning for the upcoming school year. One of the things that we really worked hard with our school administration and our departments was, we kind of didn’t, we didn’t want to throw all the things out,” said Brandt. “Because we weren’t 100% sure that we’d be returning to kind of a normal school year, even though we’re very hopeful that that’s what we’d be able to experience. And so we told our schools, a lot of these things are easy for us to maintain. The practices themselves are something that we can continue to do, from either a resource, meaning from a monetary standpoint, or from a human resource standpoint. From a structural and procedural standpoint, so a lot of those things, we said we’re not going to take everything out of the schools that we did before, and then also find out, we’re scrambling in August to put them back in. So I think we made some really good decisions with our leaders about being cautious and not assuming we’re going to be 100% back to normal. So I think that was a really strategic decision that proved to be beneficial.”
The changes, which were formally introduced on October 24th, do not reflect any sort of incident in the division, merely a decision to have a clear protocol in the case of a confirmed case of COVID-19 or an outbreak at any of the schools.
“Last year, we were heavily partnered with Alberta Health Services when it came to positive cases. They would confirm with us as soon as they had a confirmed case that it was addressed by a student or staff member, and then we would work with them to do the contact tracing,” said Brandt. “And it was our people in the South Zone from Alberta Health Services who were involved in this piece. I just cannot speak highly enough of these ladies. They were outstanding, we had such a great system, they worked very well with us, they understood the complexities of education and helped us understand the complexities of health. And so together, we would be able to communicate and get information out to any individuals that were considered to be close contact.”
“But the difference is that last year, when people were considered a close contact, they needed to do the required quarantine and be isolated. And so this year, at the beginning, that was not a requirement at all, there were parents who would let us know that somebody in the family was around one of their children had been deemed positive, but we didn’t get any confirmation from Alberta Health Services,” said Brandt. “And so that was a big change. So the changes you see on our plan, those those came directly from Alberta Health Services, and really from feedback that what we need to engage in a little bit more diligence and fidelity around notifying people not necessarily because we’re not doing, we’re not doing isolating or quarantining with close contacts, we’re doing notification. So for example, now, public health services, again, they are doing a great job of notifying. And then our job is to notify any individuals who may have been in contact with that person during the infectious period, which is, again, that’s determined by Alberta Health Service. And then we send letters out. And so it’s not a requirement to isolate, but it is a requirement to let people know that, you know, their child may have been in contact with somebody who has been positive and to please monitor them for symptoms.”