Outbreak declared at southern Alberta high school

A “respiratory illness outbreak” was announced at a Pincher Creek high school Tuesday, Nov. 22, according to Darryl Seguin, superintendent at Livingstone Range School Division.

The outbreak came into effect at Matthew Halton High School after at least 10 per cent of the 278 students stayed home with respiratory symptoms.

Schools are asked to notify Alberta Health Services’ Co-ordinated Early Identification and Response team whenever absenteeism due to respiratory illness hits 10 per cent or when there’s “an unusual number of individuals (off sick) with similar symptoms,” according to AHS’s south zone.

Tuesday’s announcement came one day after an outbreak was declared at Pincher Creek’s Canyon School.

No further outbreaks had been reported within the LRSD as of Wednesday afternoon. A prior outbreak had been announced at the school division’s early-learning program at the Horace Allen School in Coleman.

Seguin didn’t say if the LRSD has the authority to impose masking mandates. Premier Danielle Smith announced earlier this month that “Our government will not permit any further masking mandates of children in Alberta’s K-12 education system.”

A Court of King’s Bench judge had previously ruled that a health order to this effect by Dr. Deena Hinshaw, formerly Alberta’s chief medical officer, “was made for improper purposes."

Justice G.S. Dunlop ruled that the chief medical officer has the authority to mandate school health measures, but that Hinshaw had based her order on a political decision by cabinet.

Custodial staff at Canyon and MHHS are taking extra care to clean surfaces, while teachers are being encouraged to rearrange classrooms to allow for more social distancing, Seguin said.

The outbreak seems to have spared teachers at MHHS, with Seguin saying staff absences due to illness have been normal for this point in the school year.

The LRSD is home to around 3,750 kids in K-12, according to Seguin.

Laurie Tritschler, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze