Outbreak keeps one school remote, rest of Prairie South School Division returns to school Monday

·2 min read
Cornerstone will be closed to in-person learning until at least April 20.  (Matt Howard/CBC - image credit)
Cornerstone will be closed to in-person learning until at least April 20. (Matt Howard/CBC - image credit)

A COVID-19 outbreak at Cornerstone Christian School in Moose Jaw, Sask., is keeping it closed until at least April 20. The rest of the Prairie South School Division is set to return to in-person learning Monday.

The director of education with Prairie South, Tony Baldwin, said he made the decision with the guidance of local medical health officers.

"We have several staff members [at Cornerstone] who are on self-isolation until the 20th of April and it's enough staff members that we can't reasonably run the school without them being at the school," he said.

He said it's less of an actual illness issue, and is more about the availability of staff.

There are 180 known active cases as of Thursday in the south central zone. The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) directed questions on the number of cases at Cornerstone to the school division, which did not have the information and referred back to the SHA.

An outbreak was declared at the school on March 21.

A letter to parents from Cornerstone says "Cornerstone has had a significant number of COVID -19 cases in these past weeks. Teachers, staff, students and their family members have been ill or are ill with symptoms ranging from mild to very serious."

One expert says keep the schools in remote learning

Regina schools aren't going back until late April, which had one expert asking why Moose Jaw is still going ahead with its school reopening considering both cities are in similar positions with virus spread and variants of concern.

Kyle Anderson, an Assistant Professor in Biochemistry, Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Saskatchewan, penned a letter to the division and the chair of the board of education.

"Throughout the last couple of weeks, there's been a very clear correlation between the numbers in Regina and the numbers in Moose Jaw," he said.

"It's clear that Moose Jaw right now is in a worse position for the third wave than they were a couple of weeks ago. ... There's no real data-driven reason why they would go back to in-person instruction."

Anderson said the move to in-person learning is too much of a risk to put the community through with ICUs the way they are now and younger age groups ending up in hospital.

He said he recognized it's hard to be put in the position to make the decision but that the overall good of keeping kids out of schools outweighs the bad — such as difficulties for parents and less socialization for kids — in this situation.