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Grade 10-12 students at Barrhead switching to at-home learning due to batch of local COVID-19 cases

Cases also identified at schools in Neerlandia, Westlock, Clyde and Sunny Bend Colony
cropped-BCHS Sept. 22
As a result of six COVID-19 cases being identified at Barrhead Composite High School, Grade 10-12 students will be switching to at-home learning from April 26-30, though Grade 7-9 students will continue in-classroom learning. Dozens of other students and staff within the Pembina Hills School Division are in isolation due to COVID-19 cases throughout the jurisdiction.

Grade 10-12 students at Barrhead Composite High School (BCHS) will switch to at-home learning for the final week of April due to six cases of COVID-19 being identified at the school. 

In addition, seven other cases of COVID-19 had been identified throughout the Pembina Hills School Division as of April 23, including three cases at Neerlandia Public Christian School, one case at R.F. Staples School in Westlock, one case at Eleanor Hall School in Clyde and one case at the Sunny Bend Colony School. 

“It means that there’s hundreds of students and staff isolating because of the way contact tracing goes," said Pembina Hills board chair Jennifer Tuininga. 

On April 22, an update was posted to the Pembina Hills website informing the public that 11 cases of COVID-19 had been identified throughout the division. However, Tuininga informed the Town & Country Today Friday afternoon that two more cases had been identified. 

The update stated that two-thirds of high school students had been placed in isolation because of the handful of cases, which is why Grade 10-12 students were switching to at-home learning from April 26-30. (Grade 7-9 students will continue learning at school.) 

Incidentally, Tuininga said that 47 of those BCHS students who were going to study at-home this week must now go into isolation because of an additional case of COVID-19 identified on Friday. 

At Neerlandia Public Christian School, the entire Grade 7 and 8 classes are currently at home, with their teachers delivering content to all of those students online. However, no further at-home learning has been deemed necessary beyond those already in isolation. 

Westlock Elementary School also has one Grade 6 class that has been informed of the need to isolate, and while some R.F. Staples students who were in isolation have returned to class, there are still others who are isolating because of other incidental contact. 

The staff at Sunny Bend Colony School are also isolating and substitutes are providing instruction to students. 

Finally, there are 17 students at Fort Assiniboine School who are isolating, even though there are no active cases there. 

The update stresses that these situations and can change quickly, but the protocols that schools have in place have worked to contain transmission. 

Tuininga noted their principals and senior administration officials are working on evenings and weekends making calls and sending e-mails and texts for contact tracing and trying to keep students learning in-person. 

She added that their other staff are all doing extra cleaning and wearing PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) daily, as well as continuing to teach and support students in-person and online. 

“As a board we wanted to commend our staff for the work that they’re doing this year,” she said. 

However, Tuininga also urged the public to please support staff and students as they continue to teach and learn during the pandemic. 

“We are doing our utmost to keep our schools COVID-free, but we need your help,” she said. 

She urged the public to please follow Alberta Health restrictions and recommendations around masking up and avoiding large gatherings, as well as booking their vaccines if they’re eligible. 

“If your children attend our schools, continue to do the daily health check and notify the school if your child tests positive,” she said.

Kevin Berger,

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