Glen Avon School in St. Paul has been moved to an outbreak status for COVID-19 following a second positive result for an individual there.
According to St. Paul Education superintendent Glen Brodziak, two cohorts within the school have been impacted by the positive COVID-19 tests and asked to isolate.
He said the move to outbreak status doesn’t change anything except the school’s classification within Alberta Health Services, which classifies any school with two or more cases of COVID-19 as experiencing an outbreak.
“We still isolate those areas and bring in extra staff as needed and allocate extra custodial hours as required. They’re cleaned nightly, but staff do a deep clean of those impacted areas whether it’s one or two classrooms, those washrooms that are designated for those cohorts, the gym. And then we make sure that we use our electrostatic cleaners in those areas. They are cleaned on a regular basis but we do go through and do a deep clean again,” said Brodziak.
The outbreak at Glen Avon School comes on the heels of a confusing week of conflicting messages for parents and staff.
On Nov. 3, St. Paul Education sent home a letter to parents “out of an abundance of caution” because an individual at the school told them they had received a positive COVID-19 test.
On Nov. 5, the board was informed by AHS that the individual was not positive and informed parents and students they did not need to self-isolate.
“I said, Holy smokes if I’m going to be sending something out to parents, we better make sure it’s confirmed. So I confirmed with two arms of AHS that test was in fact, negative,” said Brodziak.
“We called parents and told our staff you can come back to work and we had the administration call all the kids and say you guys can come back to school.”
In the afternoon of Nov. 6, the board received a call from AHS that there had been an error at the lab and the individual had been positive all along.
According to Brodziak, the school board took care of calling everyone back again because they didn’t feel it was fair to put it on the school administration to make all those phone calls for a third time.
“We called all the parents and said we’re so sorry. That’s what we know, so we go on the latest. Parents were wonderful about it and staff were wonderful about it,” said Brodziak.
In an e-mailed statement, a spokesperson for AHS said “AHS always works closely with our federal partners to conduct testing in Indigenous communities, prioritizing those in rural, remote and isolated communities, including Saddle Lake. AHS also follows up on any concerns about results. In this case, AHS has been in contact with this family and we have apologized for the data entry error, which has since been resolved. Due to patient confidentiality, we cannot provide any further specific details about this case.”
“If Albertans have any questions or concerns about their COVID-19 test results, please call Health Link at 811 to speak with a Registered Nurse 24 hours a day, seven days a week, or reach out to your family physician.”
Brodziak said he did get a call from a senior member of AHS on Friday apologizing for the mistake.
“They don’t know how it happened. They are going through their protocols and everything. It still doesn’t take away from what some of these parents and staff had to go through. But regardless there was a senior member that called me, and was very sincere. But I’m also not going to be the one to just throw stones because we could make mistakes too.”
According to the St. Paul Education website, because of the recent increase in COVID-19 cases in Alberta AHS resources are stretched thin.
“If a parent shares information about a positive case, the Division will immediately contact AHS to confirm the case and seek direction to ultimately determine if there are any school related ‘close contacts’ requiring isolation. This means that parents may receive close contact information and isolation requirements from the school. As per AHS documentation, the families will also be contacted by AHS workers who will confirm the requirements of isolation.”
According AHS, in school settings a close contact is defined as the entire classroom, any individuals who were within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes, any individuals who shared food or drink, had close physical contact or were seated in the two rows in front of, behind, or beside the positive case on a school bus. The use of masks does not change who is considered a close contact.