Individuals at two schools in Saskatchewan's Good Spirit School Division have tested positive for COVID-19 variants of concern, prompting the division to move nearly 1,000 students to online learning.
Families with children attending Davison School in Melville and Yorkton Regional High School in Yorkton received emails on Sunday, letting them know classes were cancelled at both schools for Monday. As of Tuesday, students will move to online learning until March 23.
Two separate individuals, one at each school, tested positive for a COVID-19 variant of concern.
In both cases the number of close contacts with the COVID-positive individuals forced the division to move to online learning, said director of education Quintin Robertson.
It became quite a tangled web of close contacts. - Quintin Robertson, director of education, Good Spirit School Division
"Unfortunately, at the Yorkton Regional High School, the individual was infectious at school for a number of days, in contact with a number of individuals," Robertson said.
"And then there was ... a change in semesters. So there were 17 classrooms connected, plus the bus, plus the staff. So it became quite a tangled web of close contacts."
Robertson was unable to disclose if the COVID-positive cases were students or staff members.
Approximately 800 students attend Yorkton Regional High School, Robertson said.
He said the high school has not been forced into remote learning since last fall.
At Davison elementary school in Melville, seven teachers were deemed close contacts of the COVID-positive variant case, Robertson said.
"We had seven staff in a very small school all deemed close contacts, plus bussing,' Robertson said.
Davison has about 200 students, according to its website.
In his letter to families Sunday, Robertson stated that the Melville case originated in a Grade 3 classroom and the Yorkton case involved two separate Grade 9 classrooms.
The letters said the presence of COVID variants contributed to the decision to move the students to online learning.
"Due to the increased risk of transmission of the variant of concern, the Good Spirit School Division has decided that all students in Pre-kindergarten to Grade 6 will move to remote instruction," the letter to Melville parents stated.
Melville families with children at Davison school received this letter. Parents of Yorkton Regional High School students received a similar one.
According to the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA), variants of concern require shorter exposure times for virus transmission and patients develop symptoms quicker than with the non-mutated COVID-19 virus.
The SHA did not respond to a request for an interview. It was not immediately clear which of the three main variants of concern were detected.