Safety depends on us working together as partners. Multiple strategies will keep everyone safe.
We have worked with the ministry and with our partner jurisdictions to ensure similar approaches to implementing multiple health measures to keep everyone safe. These protocols are intended to reduce the risk of COVID-19.
Also, in the newly revised (updated Aug. 27, 2020) Government of Alberta School Re-entry Plan 2020-2021, the province will continue to monitor and share information about COVD-19 cases in Alberta. The government has developed a COVID-19 Status Map that shows the level of risk in regions and information about local health measures. It also shows the rate of COVID-19 cases and the number of active cases.
Confirmed cases will be monitored in real-time to inform proactive responses in localized areas of the province. Municipalities, counties, and municipal districts with active cases over 50 per 100,000 population may have additional measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Alberta Health Services has just published a very helpful web tool for parents/legal guardians (members need to isolate and when children can return to school). The tool provides resources to address commonly asked questions. Additionally, Alberta Health revised numerous documents for enhanced clarity without substantive changes.
This resource will help inform school re-entry and subsequent school operations.
On Aug. 26, Prime Minister Trudeau announced $2B in federal funding to be provided to provinces to fund pandemic-related direct expenses such as online education, cleaning, and personal protective equipment. At the public board meeting on Oct. 26, the community received a report on how these funds have been allocated and/or committed its $1.98 million in the following areas:
- additional supports (staff) for online learning that is provided in addition to face-to-face setting and substitute costs related to COVID – $1,568,400 (79%) (Note 1);
- personal protective equipment (masks, gloves, gowns, thermometers, and face shields); cleaning and hand sanitizing supplies and facility alterations (filters, floor markings, plexi-glass screens, hand sanitizing dispensing units) – $135,000 (7%);
- increased custodial time in schools – $140,000 (7%);
- increased transportation (cleaning and routing) – 80,000 (4%); and
- online learning and teacher training (PD/Equipment) – $56,900 (3%).
Note 1: There are presently 16.5 certificated staff FTEs assigned to Online Learning Pathway. Schools have contributed approximately 4 teacher FTEs with the remaining 12.5 FTEs to be covered by this federal funding. Approximately $247K is assigned to substitute costs.
On Sept. 2, Alberta’s Minister of Education announced how this federal funding would be distributed; our Division will receive $1,980,300 to address our increased costs related to school re-entry. Additionally, on Aug. 31, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health mandated CMOH-order 33-2020, which articulated mask use guidelines for schools. Details are included in this section. Further to this health order, on Sept. 3, the Chief Medical Officer of Health published a letter that was sent to all school jurisdictions on Sept. 8, and, that was then, through our superintendent, circulated to all of our families.
On Nov. 5, the Chief Medical Officer of Health announced the potential of having to enact more stringent health measures to control the continued surge in confirmed cases of COVID-19. Our jurisdiction committed to further restrictions on numbers of staff and students in contact by scheduling changes this past week to be put in place after the Fall break. On Nov. 12, temporary restrictions were announced and are addressed on our website and in the Parent Guidebook.
During the week of Nov. 16t to 20, we welcomed public health inspections in our schools to support our jurisdiction to learn and to continue to refine our health and safety measures. We were successful in meeting all AHS guidelines, and we share some of the lessons learned throughout this section. The main lesson was that schools can go beyond the minimum health measures, especially if they have had an outbreak (2+ positive COVID-19 cases).
Our Division worked throughout the summer to prepare for schools re-opening. Air-handling units and coils have been pressure washed and pleated air filters have been installed. We are attentive to ventilation practices suggested by Alberta Health such as encouraging proper ventilation using open doors and windows, holding classes outside, and holding classes in larger spaces with greater air volume and airflow.
Approved cleaning protocols have been put in place in all Division buildings. Custodial staff have been trained to identify high touch areas and to know how to clean, sanitize, and disinfect them. Soft furnishings that cannot be easily cleaned have been removed from classrooms and common areas. More frequent cleaning protocols have been put in place concerning washrooms, high traffic areas, and common areas. All schools have approved cleaning supplies as well as microfiber cloths that are sent to be laundered on behalf of staff. Staff will work with school principals to identify high-touch surfaces within classrooms and will be trained to wipe them down effectively throughout the day.
During our public health inspections, schools will further limit cloth on tables or displays that can be easily touched will be removed as cloth is not easily cleaned, disinfected, and sanitized.
Before coming to school each day, all staff and students must complete the Alberta government’s COVID-19 Information Screening Questionnaire, which is available in multiple languages, to determine whether they can attend or must stay home. Students who have any symptoms noted on the questionnaire cannot attend school. The form does not need to be submitted to the office. If your child has any symptoms, contact your school office to let your child’s school know. Everyone who enters a school will see a sign that reminds them to complete the daily COVID-19 Information Screening Questionnaire before entering the building.
Illness: What Happens at School
On Sept. 3, AHS released a summary guideline for when students become ill at school. On Oct. 8, a simplified guide for what to do when your child shows symptoms has also been prepared for schools and parents/legal guardians.
If your child becomes ill during the day, he/she will be brought to a designated area in or near the office for both the child’s and others’ safety.
Your child will be informed about the process to minimize any psychological impact:
- When a child becomes ill at school, a staff member will help him/her and wear the necessary personal protective equipment (mask and any other required safety items [face shield, gloves, gown], if necessary.
- The child will have a temperature check with a contactless thermometer and parents/legal guardians will be informed as to whether he/she has a fever.
- The child will review which symptom or symptoms he/she is having based on the guidance for school re-entry screening questionnaire.
- If a child is sick, parents or legal guardians will be contacted to pick up the child immediately. You need to provide the school with your current contact information and updated emergency contacts to help us to keep your child safe.
When students become ill in school, the protocol is for the school principal to be in contact with Division Office staff, when necessary, to support seeking advice from our AHS contacts. Parents/legal guardians in the broader community will only be notified when the risk warrants notification. This determination is made with Alberta Health Services’ consultation.
- AHS advises that you should get tested if you have any COVID-19 symptoms. Go online to book an appointment for a COVID-19 test.
- Please follow the guidelines in the October 29, 2020 Checklist by Alberta Health Services. The symptoms for COVID-19 have been detailed and are subject to change on the AHS website.
If you have any of these core symptoms, you need to isolate for at least 10 days, from the start of your symptoms or until they are gone, whichever is longer, or until you test negative for COVID-19.
- Adults (18+)
shortness of breath
- Children (under 18)
shortness of breath
loss of sense of taste or smell
- Adults (18+)
Any symptom: stay home and limit contact with others until symptoms are gone. Testing is recommended.
Muscle or joint aches
Feeling unwell or fatigue
Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or unexplained loss of appetite
Loss of sense of smell or taste
Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye
- Children (under 18)
1 symptom: stay home for 24 hours, get tested if symptoms don't improve.
2+ symptoms: get tested and stay home until well or test is negative.
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Painful swallowing
- Muscle or joint aches
- Feeling unwell
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or unexplained loss of appetite
- Conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye
> > > Monitor your health and call Health Link 811 or your health care provider if you have questions or concerns. Call 911 immediately if experiencing severe symptoms of COVID-19, including difficulty breathing, severe chest pain, feelings of confusion or loss of consciousness.
> > > Please check isolation guidelines as they have been updated:
COVID-19 can take up to 14 days to cause symptoms. Some people who get it only have minor symptoms or don't have any symptoms at all but could still be infectious.
- By staying home, it lowers the chance of symptoms developing while you're in a public place, which lowers the chance of spreading the virus to others.
When to isolate:
- Isolate to avoid spreading illness.
- You tested positive for COVID-19.
- You are sick with fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat* or runny nose* and have not been tested.
*Children under 18 are exempt from mandatory isolation for runny nose or sore throat but should stay home until well.
When to quarantine:
- Quarantine and watch for symptoms to prevent exposing others before symptoms appear.
- You had close contact with a person who has COVID-19.
- You returned from travel outside of Canada.
Students with pre-existing health conditions that cause symptoms of illness should be tested for COVID-19 at least once. A negative test will help show that symptoms are related to their pre-existing conditions and not to COVID-19. This will establish what their baseline for being healthy looks like. Families should notify their school about any pre-existing condition and the symptoms it causes. As long as these symptoms remain the same, the student can attend school. During our public health inspections, our public health officer (PHO) emphasized that it is necessary to encourage parents to get their child(ren) who have had pre-existing conditions to get a COVID-19 test to rule out COVID-19. She emphasized that this is part of establishing a baseline.
If symptoms change or worsen, the student will need to leave the school, follow illness protocols, and have another COVID-19 test to determine if the symptoms are still related to the pre-existing medical condition. If the test is negative, the student may return to school. Families can learn more about COVID-19 testing and book a test online through AHS.
Illness at School: Parents’ Next Steps
AHS' website provides information on the following steps:
- Take the COVID-19 Self-assessment: Go online to take the COVID-19 Self-assessment.
- Book a COVID-19 test: AHS advises that you should get tested if you have any COVID-19 symptoms. Book an appointment online.
- Parents should follow AHS’ isolation guidelines.
- Monitor your health, and call Health Link 811 if you have questions or concerns. Call 911 immediately if you are experiencing severe symptoms of COVID-19, including difficulty breathing, severe chest pain, feelings of confusion, or loss of consciousness.
Isolation and Close Contact Protocols
If your child is ill or has been in contact with someone who has symptoms of or has tested positive for COVID-19, then you should follow the isolation guidelines. A quick review of isolation protocols when you or your child is tested for COVID-19 is provided below:
|Symptoms||COVID-19 Test Result||Management of Individual||Management of Individual's Close Contacts*|
|Symptomatic||Positive||Isolate for a minimum 10 days or until symptoms resolve, whichever is longer.||Quarantine for 14 days from last exposure.|
Stay home until symptoms resolve.
|Asymptomatic||Positive||Isolate for a minimum of 10 days from the collection date of the swab.||Quarantine from 14 days from last exposure.|
No isolation required.
Except if identified as a close contact of a confirmed case:
- Individuals WILL NOT receive written or email documentation of their results. Those who wish to access their results directly should sign up for My Health Records.
- There is not a requirement to provide evidence of negative results before returning to school.
- AHS Public Health will contact all confirmed cases and their close contacts and provide them clear direction.
- AHS Public Health will notify the school of a positive case.
- Individuals with COVID-19 symptoms are encouraged to be tested using the AHS Online Self-Assessment tool
As we have experienced a surge in positive COVID-19 cases in the last few weeks, our schools, along with all schools in the Edmonton area, have had more confirmed cases. Therefore, we have had more students and staff who have become “close contacts” of a confirmed positive case. AHS has prepared useful information on its website:
If a student is a close contact of someone confirmed to have COVID-19, they must quarantine and stay home for 14 days. This longer period of time is required because the incubation period of COVID-19 is two weeks. Visit Isolation requirements for more detailed information.
Close contacts include people who: take care of someone with COVID-19 or had contact through touch with the person with COVID-19 were close to that person for a long time, or were coughed or sneezed on by that person. AHS will confirm and contact close contacts when there is a case at school and will contact parents and staff.
Generally, the entire classroom is considered to be close contacts of the case. This is a cautious approach to identifying close contacts in order to minimize the risk of transmission. This means that if a student tests positive for COVID-19, all of their classmates must quarantine and stay home for 14 days. Additionally, all of these classmates should also be tested for COVID-19. Even if a classmate of a case is tested and the result is negative, they still must complete the 14-day quarantine.
If a student is identified to be a close contact (e.g: a classmate of a student who tests positive), family members of the close contact do not need to quarantine unless the close contact also develops symptoms. Family members or other people in the household who had contact with a student while they were infectious (had symptoms) are required to quarantine for 14 days from the last time they were exposed to the sick student.
AHS Public Health will determine who is a close contact and how long they are required to quarantine when they complete their investigation.
On Nov.5, Alberta's Chief Medical of Health announced that due to fast-paced rises in cases, contact tracers are falling behind. For this reason, our school and division administrators have been working with AHS and calling close contacts, and notifying close contacts prior to AHS sending letters. On Nov.12, Deputy Minister Andre Corbould stated that the Ministries of Education and Health continue to work together to explore tools for expediting close contact tracing.
On Nov. 20, the Chief Medical Officer of Health indicated that due to AHS falling behind on contact tracing, she has asked that they work from the most recent cases backward.
Staff and students will learn about and implement AHS' hand hygiene practices. Everyone who enters a school will use hand sanitizer or wash their hands immediately. Students and staff will be required to wash and/or sanitize their hands throughout the day, including every time that they enter or exit the school/classroom, before and after using shared equipment, and before and after eating. Schools will provide hand sanitizer throughout the building to support these requirements. It is also encouraged that parents/legal guardians send their children to school with personal hand sanitizer. Schools will also promote proper hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette with verbal reminders and posters throughout the school. Parents can help their children practice these hand hygiene practices at home before returning to school.
A cohort is defined as a group of students and staff who remain together. The size of the cohort will depend on the size of the classroom and the number of students assigned to the teacher. Every effort will be made to keep the same students and staff together and limit contact between cohorts within the school. Cohorting should be maintained during activities outside the classroom, such as recess and lunch breaks. The cohort concept encourages individuals who cannot maintain 2-metre physical distance when in group settings to interact with the same people within their own cohort group. If students from two different cohorts wish to socialize, they should remain at least 2 metres apart. Strategies such as staggering breaks and limiting gatherings will lessen the chances of an outbreak and ease contact tracing. While schools cannot control what happens outside of school hours, cohorts or other control measures within a school will still help lessen the risk of COVID-19 transmission as per the Alberta Government’s Implementing School Re-entry Guidelines.
Physical distancing is one health measure to reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19. At times, students and staff will be sitting, walking, talking, or doing activities that require them to be closer than two metres, so varied strategies will be put in place to promote physical distancing throughout their buildings, where possible, including in classrooms, hallways, washrooms, and common areas.
Strategies include, but are not limited, to:
- removing excess furniture in classrooms to make more space to spread student desks and tables farther apart;
- removing or rearranging seating in common areas to prevent students from gathering;
- staggering the start/end/break times for classes to prevent crowded hallways;
- posting signs and using floor markers to control the flow of foot traffic and support physical distancing; and
- using plexiglass shields.
It is important to note that students are not expected to sit at their desks for the day, as learning can occur during various activities. Additional measures, such as the following, will be implemented when students are not seated in the classroom:
- considering activities that take place outdoors or in areas that allow for increased physical distancing and/or increased ventilation;
- considering how to limit the number of students moving within the classroom or throughout the school at one time to promote physical distancing; and
- wearing masks when engaging in activities where physical distancing of at least 2 metres cannot be maintained.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as masks, face shields, gloves, and gowns are provided to staff who work with students in classrooms, in Division programs such as our RISE program and our Sports Academies, or who come into contact with students or staff who are ill. All Division staff will be provided with two reusable masks and a face shield to support a safer return to school. Face shields do not replace masks; masks are still required for staff who are wearing face shields.
On Sept. 2, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health confirmed that masks are part of our “new normal” and will require ongoing learning about multiple measures to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19. She shared interpretations of her newly released (Aug. 31) CMOH-order 33-2020, which articulated mask use guidelines for schools. In that order, Dr. Hinshaw confirmed the following guidelines:
All students attending grades 4 through 12, staff members and visitors must wear a non-medical face mask that covers their mouth and nose while attending an indoor location within a school, unless the student, staff member, or visitor:
- is unable to place, use or remove a non-medical face mask without assistance;
- is unable to wear a non-medical face mask due to a mental or physical
concern or limitation;
- is consuming food or drink in a designated area;
- is engaging in physical exercise;
- is seated at a desk or table;
- within a classroom or place where the instruction, course, or program of study is taking place, and
- where the desks, tables, and chairs are arranged in a manner
- (i) to prevent persons who are seated from facing each other and
- (ii) to allow the greatest possible distance between seated persons;
- (iii) is providing or receiving care or assistance where a non-medical face mask would hinder that caregiving or assistance; or
- (iv) is separated from every other person by a physical barrier.
Originally, in this Guidebook, we shared that masks are an important way to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19, particularly when people are indoors and physical distancing of two metres or more is not possible. Alberta’s Minister of Education and Chief Medical Officer of Health have mandated that all staff and all grades 4-12 students wear a mask when physical distancing at school is not possible. It is recommended that K–3 students wear masks, although this is not a requirement in schools at this time. Masks are required for all students on buses, as buses are an environment in which students from multiple cohorts come together and social distancing is difficult to maintain. Individuals who are physically, psychologically, or developmentally unable to wear a mask or who are protected by the Alberta Human Rights Act may be excused from wearing a mask.
Proper mask-use will be taught and promoted, and it is our collective responsibility to adhere to mask protocols. Masks will be provided to students. That said, we encourage parents/legal guardians to send their children to school with a mask and to practice proper mask protocols before coming to school. Emergency supplies of masks, face shields, gloves, gowns will be kept at the school office.
Signs and arrows
Schools will use information on posters and on the floor (arrows/foot markers) to help students to maintain physical distancing within the school and to know which way to walk through the hallways.
Laminated signs will be displayed throughout the school as reminders to:
- Help Relaunch Safely
- Please do not enter, if…
- Self-screening Questionnaire
- How to wash your hands
- How to use hand sanitizer
- How to wear a face mask
- Practice physical distancing
- School closure
- Elevator safety
Lockers, Coat Hooks, and School Supplies
In the earlier versions of these guidelines, we recommended limiting students’ access to lockers and coat hooks due to distancing protocols and gathering restrictions. Newly revised guidelines from the Alberta Government envisage the potential of using coat hooks and lockers only when measures are in place to minimize crowding:
- spacing lockers/coat hooks out when possible and
- assigning lockers/coat hooks based on cohort/grade/class.
Because as we started school, it was difficult to ensure that crowding is easily minimized, school principals have worked with staff to have students bring what they need for the day and keep school supplies and textbooks in their backpacks or in storage solutions proposed by classroom teachers to minimize locker visits or the need to go to cubbies and coat hooks.
We continue to support teachers to direct the best way to store items, and, in consultation with the school principals, this guideline may change as health guidelines evolve or as protocols are developed to ensure that health measures can be met by accessing lockers and coat hooks.
Students’ personal supplies will be stored separately. Teachers will plan learning activities to reduce or minimize the need to share equipment, textbooks, or materials. If items are shared, they must be cleaned and disinfected after use. Students will wash or sanitize their hands both before and after using the shared items.
Washrooms and Common Areas
Washrooms will be cleaned and disinfected throughout the day. There will be a maximum number of students permitted in the washroom at one time. Depending on the size of the school and the location of washrooms, schools may assign students to specific washrooms. Areas such as libraries and gymnasiums may be used as classrooms and this will be determined by the school principal. Gatherings will be discouraged in all common areas, and limitations placed on resource sharing to ensure that all health guidelines can be met.
Schools will not assign staff to supervise playground equipment before and after school. To support safety, this equipment will be off-limits to students. Parents/legal guardians who wish to take children to the playground at other times of the day are encouraged to follow the province’s Guidance for Playgrounds to use the equipment as safely as possible. School principals will review the guidance for playground use and decide whether to permit playground access during school hours. During our Public Health Inspections, we were reminded that for those schools that have playgrounds open to the public, they are encouraged.