Absentee rates at Alberta schools soar, but the government refuses to disclose COVID-19 numbers

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at Delnort School, an elementary and middle school in the Alberta village of Innisfree, about 30 percent The students were ill with symptoms of respiratory illness earlier this month. At Dewberry School, about 60 kilometers east, 20 percent were absent. At Cambrian Heights School in Calgary, about 11 percent of children missed class for the same reason, according to government data obtained by .

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Dozens of schools in Alberta have experienced similar absenteeism rates since classes resumed in late August, without government-mandated public-health restrictions.

But the Alberta government declined to disclose how many schools have hit the 10-percent absenteeism threshold required for the province to declare an outbreak of respiratory illness, even as parents and administrators says that information on the spread of COVID-19 is important for the safety of students amid the fourth wave of the pandemic.

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Concerned parents, staff and students are confused about the lack of COVID-19 safety guidance for Alberta schools

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Alberta Education Minister Adriana LaGrange told reporters last month that vaccines have created a situation where parents, students and staff will be able to return to a “normal” school year. However, as schools reopened, some of them were quickly on the province’s outbreak list.

According to Alberta Education, the coronavirus has forced at least five schools to start learning at home so far this year. School administrators and trustees are now begging the provincial government to provide them with COVID-19 statistics and support, such as contact tracing.

Trisha Estabrooks, chair of the Edmonton Public Schools Board of Trustees, said, “The lack of information is creating fear, it is creating rumors and it is creating chaos in our schools.” “Schools need to be safe, welcoming, quiet places for our children to go to every day. And this situation is not fair.”

Alberta Health Services did not respond to a message confirming the absent data obtained by The Granthshala.

The provincial government has not always been reluctant to share information. During the last school year, it alerted local school officials when someone belonging to their institution tested positive for COVID-19, without disclosing personal information. This helped in contact tracing and set up isolation and quarantine requirements for close contacts. But the government removed all those safeguards this year along with the disclosures.

Now, administrators are relying on voluntary disclosures from parents and staff to track COVID-19 in their hallways. Even when schools notify the province of a respiratory-illness-related absenteeism rate of at least 10 percent, it can take six or seven days for Alberta Health Services to disclose to parents, Ms Estabrooks said.

“It seems that the government is acting as if the school is just a thought,” she said.

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Asked by reporters on Thursday why parents are not being informed about COVID-19 infections in their children’s schools, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dina Hinshaw said personal Disclosure of health information would be a violation of privacy laws.

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