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Outbreak sheds fresh light on pandemic for students

Another Spring Break cancelled by COVID

ATHABASCA - Hardly anyone at Edwin Parr Composite School could have guessed COVID-19 would put their spring break on halt for the second year in a row, but another quarantine began to loom over the school after a large number of students were sent home on March 25, due to confirmed cases of COVID-19 in their classes.  

Any students with a confirmed case in one or more of their classes were deemed to be close contacts and were required to self-isolate for two weeks as per Alberta Health Services guidelines. Many others, like Grade 11 student Kaiya Halliday, have not been required to isolate, but are still feeling the effects nonetheless.  

“I luckily don’t have to self-isolate,” Halliday said. “But many of my friends have to. It has caused a lot of stress waiting for their COVID tests to come back.” 

Even for those who haven’t been directly affected, one common question keeps coming up: could this outbreak have been avoided? 

Grade 11 classmates Marcus Zaft and Amy Wiebe shared similar thoughts on the topic. Both believe there was little else the school could have done beyond having continued with online learning to prevent the rise in cases. 

“The outbreak was inevitable,” Wiebe said. “People were bound to get sick and it was just a matter of when … It is unlikely the school could have done anything short of closing it completely to prevent the spread.” 

Zaft agreed: “I do feel this outbreak could have been avoided, but that would call for some very serious measures such as continuing online school from the start.” 

Others, like Grade 11 student Ivan Espino-Lopez, felt the people themselves could have done more to help combat the spread. 

“Students could have used more common sense, by avoiding parties and large groupings overall,” he said. 

It’s a frustration felt by plenty of other students upon hearing the news of the outbreak.  

“(I’m frustrated) simply because of the new variant and people still going places after being quarantined,” continued Espino-Lopez. 

Halliday agreed, saying, “I did not expect to be spending another spring break in lock down which is frustrating. It also doesn’t help to have more people I care about personally affected; it makes things much more stressful.” 

Another factor playing into the frustration is the return to online school that Edwin Parr students are facing for the week of April 6-9 and possibly longer.  

Grade 9 student Leila Alexander was one of those not looking forward to the return of online classes.  

“I think going online may be hard,” she said. “Especially for our teachers since there are certain units we are covering that are difficult to teach online.” 

Zaft did not find this return to online learning as daunting as in previous cases. 

“I am not too afraid or nervous about returning to online school because I have done it in the past and it wasn’t as bad as I worried it may be,” he said. 

While some found a little bit of comfort in the fact they now have more experience with learning online and lock downs than previously, having the outbreak occur so close to home has shed a fresh light and more perspective on the COVID-19 pandemic for the students. 

“This new variation of the virus has indeed caused me to feel differently. It’s crazy how a virus can change little things about itself to make it differ from the original," said Zaft. “This outbreak has definitely changed my perspective on the virus. Before the outbreak I was not aware of how quickly the virus can spread."

“Whenever there is an outbreak it makes the pandemic feel more real to me, even if it has been at the front of everything we’ve done for the past year,” said Halliday. 

“It’s a wake-up call for those of us that thought this could be over sometime soon,” Wiebe added.