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Calgary junior, high schools move to online learning amid rising COVID-19 cases

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Hundreds of Calgary students will be shifting to online learning for two weeks starting Monday, as the province’s COVID-19 numbers continue to soar, putting pressure on the city’s two major school boards.

Alberta Health Services said Wednesday that classes for students in grades 7 to 12 in both Calgary Board of Education and Calgary Catholic School District schools will be taking place online for a myriad of reasons, including:

  • a chronic substitute teacher shortage
  • a significant number of students and staff in quarantine or isolation
  • recent requests from the board for short-term shifts for schools
  • substantial COVID-19 cases in the community

Dr. Deena Hinshaw said in a news release that the province has seen “a sharp rise in cases among school-aged Albertans, as well as those in other age groups.”

“While this is an operational decision, I support it and ask that parents and students continue making safe choices to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” the chief medical officer of health said.

“Social activities outside of school can easily spread the virus, so please continue following all the health measures in place.”

Read more: Alberta government expanding COVID-19 school rapid testing program

Education Minister Adrianna LaGrange said school boards are dealing with operational challenges as case numbers rise, and student and staff safety are her top priorities.

CBE board chair Marilyn Dennis said temporarily moving the students to at-home learning will “address operational concerns and support the health and well-being of CBE students, staff and the Calgary community.”

AHS said school boards can still request for entire schools to temporarily transition to online learning for operational reasons, and decisions to move a portion of a school — like one grade — can be made by districts themselves.

Rapid test expansion

On the weekend, the Alberta government announced it was expanding the rapid testing program piloted in two schools in Calgary in March to 300 schools across the province.

It’s expected 22,000 students and staff will be tested as part of the expansion.

On Wednesday, Alberta reported an additional 1,412 cases of COVID-19, bringing the province’s total active cases to 15,569. Officials also identified 778 cases involving variants of concern. A total of 420 people were hospitalized, with 92 of them being treated in ICUs.

On Tuesday, Hinshaw warned Albertans that with hospitalizations from COVID-19 increasing steadily, the province could reinstate more health restrictions to protect the health-care system.

Earlier this month, Premier Jason Kenney announced the province would be moving back into Step 1 of the four-step re-launch plan as infections and cases of variants of concern surged amid the third wave of the pandemic in Alberta.