Both Cardston Junior High School (CJHS) and Cardston Elementary school (CES) have been put on a Covid alert, meaning they have 1-4 positive COVID-19 cases identified within each of the two schools. According to parents with children at both schools, the alert at CES was announced to parents on Saturday January 30th, and the alert at CJHS began the evening of February 4th. Students who have been identified as close contacts of the individuals who tested positive are expected to quarantine at home for two weeks from the last date of contact, which seem to include students in a single grade 3 class and various students from classes in grade 5, 7, and 8.
Parents of students who must now quarantine have shared a feeling of safety because there was ample communication from the schools about the alert -- they received texts, emails, and phone calls from the school to ensure everyone knew about the exposure.
It is a big burden on parents with multiple children at home, trying to manage their family on devices all day long, but especially for those with young children. In an interview with parent Raeval Evans, she shared “my grade 3 son does Zoom all morning, my grade 8 child does online homework and some Zoom classes, and my child in grade 5 does Zoom school all morning also.” Parent Corinne Purnell says “it’s so hard with my child in 3rd grade because I have to be in the room making sure she stays on task with assignments from 8:30-11:30, and then in the afternoon they do homework. It feels like a lot but, still manageable”. Julie Allred, a working single mother with a child at home, says it has been alarming to leave her grade 7 student at home alone while she continues to go to work. Problems come up singing into classes and restarting devices and, out in the country, there isn’t always someone to check in on her daughter and make sure she gets to class.
On a positive note, Purnell mentions “the teachers are really on top of things, sending out assignments beforehand and communicating their expectations. It’s much better than the shutdown last March -- you can tell they were more prepared for this.” This sentiment is echoed by Evans who comments “Even though it’s hard, I like that they’re actually doing more zoom classes during the time off.” Still, Allred (a teacher herself) notes that it will still be difficult to make sure all students are near the same level when they return to the classroom. She says teachers consider “slowing down some students or speeding others up to get them to the same place”. Allred also mentions that none of these teachers were trained in how to teach online classes and it has been a serious adjustment for everyone. All together it seems that none of the parents are enthused about online learning, noting that their kids are missing out on socialization, recess, and being outside.
Each parent explained that all of their children who were close contacts have received negative COVID tests but still have to quarantine on the property for two weeks. It is interesting to note, however, that their children who were not close contacts are not required to be tested on stay away from school or their quarantined siblings. Teachers in close contact with the infected students have also not been mandated to stay home for two weeks, some are teaching from their classrooms and some are exposed to other students at CJHS. “It would have been a logistical nightmare to pay for 10 subs for 14 days across the two schools”, notes Allred. Yet her and Evans both comment that there was little communication with families about why this exception is made.
Evans and Purnell say that COVID has affected their ability to work as they have to rearrange work schedules, take less hours, or choose to not seek employment in order to be available for children who need support with zoom school. Allred has been able to continue teaching, but worries that if it had been her younger kids exposed she wouldn’t have had the luxury of continuing work.
Other schools affected by COVID in Southern Alberta include Gilbert Paterson Middle School in Lethbridge, which has 5+ cases and is on outbreak status, also JT Foster school in Nanton and WA Day Elementary in Fort Macleod, which are on alert status.
Regardless of the cases found in local schools, COVID numbers in Cardston County are on the decline over all, with only 66 active cases in Cardston County compared to the 177 in the City of Lethbridge. According to the Blood Tribe website, 28 of the Cardston County cases are located there, which also represents a significant decrease in cases.
Elizabeth Thompson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temple City Star