One MacLeod School classroom on remote learning

November 29, 2021, 11:02 am

MacLeod Elementary School

One class at MacLeod Elementary School is on remote learning until December 10 and many other classrooms are mostly empty because so many students are close contacts of the positive cases.

Seven students were positive while at school, and one other student has also tested positive.

Almost half of the student were away from school last week.

The World-Spectator interviewed Lynn Little, director of education/CEO for South East Cornerstone School Division, about the Covid situation at MacLeod and in the school division.

What is the situation? Do you know how many are actual positives and how many are close contacts?
Yes, we do. In terms of individuals who are positive, what we received are the names of individuals and identifications of those who are positive when they attended school while infectious. That’s what I would have. If they’re positive but did not attend to school I wouldn’t have that information. I think it’s eight right now—seven confirmed that were at school while infectious that we have then identified close contacts for the classroom, and one that wasn’t.

Any idea then how many close contacts of those that had to be notified?
Right, well as far as the numbers it’s more associated with the classes and then the riding of the buses. I think it’s four classes right now in MacLeod where the classmates would have been identified as close contacts and then there was not a bus impacted in the MacLeod area at this point.

What is the Covid policy right now? I know, for instance, it’s a different school division, but Esterhazy school a month or so ago had closed for a while because of a large number of cases. What is the policy and is that call made by the school division or the SHA?
It’s a joint conversation for sure, at the recommendation of Sask Health as they monitor it. Essentially in terms of positive cases, if an individual attends school and Health determines that they were infectious while in attendance, which is what they’ll do, then all individuals who shared either the learning space or were on the bus are deemed as close contacts if they are unvaccinated. It depends on the age as well and then the impact. Vaccinated individuals, whether they’re students or staff are advised to self-monitor.

Now obviously in MacLeod, because it’s a K-5 school, the children are all unvaccinated at this point so it has a wider ranging impact. Then non-vaccinated students that are provided an exemption to attend school and ride the bus but must isolate outside of instructional hours, that’s whether it’s school extra curricular or community based event. Staff or close contacts that are not fully vaccinated must self-isolate. That’s all according to the Public Health order of October 19.

What then happens then is Public Health will determine if there is a common link. They look to see where the transmission may have occurred and then if they deemed that it is possible that it is in a class, they will declare an outbreak in that class and we monitor more closely and we add in layers of protection.

For example, we identified there was a potential outbreak in Grade 3B at MacLeod and then there was an additional case that came forward yesterday. So that class will move to remote learning.

Grade 3B, is that the only class?
That’s the only class at MacLeod that’s moving to remote learning. So because there were no students to be scheduled to be at school today or Monday, I guess it’s a little bit of a reprieve which is nice, good planning. So they’re going to begin that online learning on November 30 and then we’ve extended it until December 10, and the reason we extended it all the way to December 10 is because if somebody was at school yesterday and there was that opportunity that they may have been, it’s unlikely, but may have been infectious, then that 14 day isolation period would take them up until midnight of the ninth.

So we wanted to go just past that. Right now the isolation for that class actually is until December 3, midnight on December 3. You could come back on the fourth but it’s possible, that other bit. So what we’ve done is just extended that little bit of time, given enough time to just ensure that it has quelled down. So that’s by class level. Now we haven’t in Southeast Cornerstone had a full school that we’ve done that with yet this school year.

Have there been other classes that have gone onto remote learning?
Yes for sure, across the system, a handful maybe. I don’t think we’d get up as high as 10 but might be close to 10. Rocanville had a Grade 2 class and they’re just coming off that right now actually. Stoughton has a Grade 5/6 class that is just beginning their remote learning on Tuesday at the same time actually as the Grade 3B class. We have had a few others and so far it has been just those classes and it seems to have worked in both schools.

Is there a certain point where you would consider closing an entire school or would it always be just by class at this point?
Well, it would depend on how many classes were impacted and if there were enough classes impacted and the medical health officers felt, to reduce the spread, what needed to be done to keep folks safe. We’ve had that conversation, we would be prepared to do that at that recommendation and health guide. So we’re prepared for it, like I say, we haven’t done it just yet.

We’re monitoring MacLeod closely for sure. There’s another class that’s got a couple away but each day it goes on everything seems to have flowed. Even the one we received yesterday was in the same time frame as the previous one. We’re slowing down and hoping the layers are working.

We’re certainly monitoring it, and with those monitoring when there’s an outbreak we’ll look at adding other measures. For example, the children wearing their masks at outdoor recess. Just add that extra layer of protection, keep that up just to kind of make sure that we’re really being as careful as possible. We’ll look at if extra curricular activities may need to be altered based on that, but again since it’s the elementary school, that’s not as likely to impact MacLeod as if it were a high school. So we’re looking at that.

On an average day over the last couple of weeks, how many kids have been away from MacLeod between the various classrooms?
We’ve definitely seen a decrease in attendance since the cases began to be reported and that’s been a very similar experience across our system. When cases flare up in a school, then we do see, especially the first week or so, we’ll see a decrease in the students and then they might begin to trickle back in. So over the last three days, we ranged in attendance between 125 and 130 students absent out of 275. So just around 45 per cent of the students.

So we monitor that number daily, that number goes in for all schools, it actually goes in every day automatically, goes into Health and identifies how many are away for health reasons, how many are away for other reasons. Yesterday, for example, there were 70 that were deemed to be health related. So we watch that very carefully to see where we’re at. So the last couple days have been a little bit better than it was earlier in the week so we’ll keep our eye on that.

Is there any impact on McNaughton High? Are some of the younger grades there seeing an impact?
No, actually right now absolutely no. Nothing that we are aware of. We’ve not had a positive case in McNaughton since about the middle of October. I think of note, Moosomin, the community of Moosomin as a whole and then McNaughton in our system has one of the highest vaccination rates in our system. So maybe perhaps just that layer of protection is seemingly supporting the safety there. It’s possible anyhow.

Is there a plan for providing vaccinations to the 5 to 11 year olds in the school division?
Yeah, so presently vaccines are being delivered in the community locations where parents are able to support their children while receiving the vaccine. We’re working with Public Health and have offered our facilities at any time that they feel through their data that it might be advantageous, helpful or convenient. Ee had offered the facilities prior to them determining just where and how they wanted to roll out. So they know that that’s there and we will continue to be there.

What we’re doing at this point is supporting through communication, through email, social media, websites, sending out information to parents, for example, when a clinic is occurring in an area and then we try to push that out to folks so that they’re made aware of that just as an extra place to find that information. So presently there are none of our sites being used for vaccinations but it’s not inconceivable that they wouldn’t be down the road.

You said there’s been a few cases where the individual classes went to remote learning. Are there a few right now or is it sort of in sporadic? There’s one here, one there?
Yes, that’s exactly how it is. We’ve got Rocanville coming back off right now and then Stoughton has a class moving forward, and then MacLeod. We have some activity and I would say Rocanville had a lot of activity about three weeks ago and they’re slowing down a little bit now, haven’t had a situation there. Stoughton and MacLeod right now would be what we would consider to be our schools right now that we really have the highest amount of activity, but we do have activity in Wawota, Estevan has three schools where there’s activity, Macoun and Midale also have had some activity this week. So it’s kind of sporadic across the communities and we’ll see that where we’ll have a community impact and then it kind of quietens down. Then it seems to pop up in another community. So that’s where we’re at right now.

Once Rocanville came off, and I believe they were off their remote yesterday, that was the only one that was on. There have been 246 positive cases while at school this fall (across the division). So we have quite a number that we’re working through but that’s across the whole system.

Can I just mention one other thing? Rapid antigen tests are available at the school site for folks. So if they would like to access those and monitor themselves whether they’re symptomatic or asymptomatic, those test kits are available. We do have more that we can ship out to the school if they get to be running low.

We encourage the youth to go especially during a time like this and strongly encourage folks if they have those symptoms not to come to school but then to go and get tested with health. Once we get that Health confirmed PCR test we’re really able to work with Health and make some really informed decisions that can help to reduce the transmission rates. We encourage folks to do that even if they test positive on a rapid antigen to please go and get tested at Health and then we can follow through on those processes.

We really appreciate that and we have really appreciated families that have been able to, they’ll let the schools know right away. Then we can start getting prepared for that.

We’ll often know that, the schools will get that information prior to it coming to us from our other circles in Health. So it just kind of helps and for us to be really convenient as possible and that’s really, really helpful. We certainly have appreciated that and thanked the parents and students for their understanding and support.