Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools (GSCS) responded to the emerging COVID-19 cases declared at St. Augustine School in Humboldt. Since November 13, three cases have been declared with notification having gone out about a previous case on November 7.
Communication Consultant Derrick Kunz indicated that there had been no indication given to the Division that an outbreak had been declared at the school.
“The SHA makes the criteria for what they consider to be an outbreak and they tell us (GSCS). It’s not really a discussion. It’s up to the Health Authority to determine why or why not in each individual case or scenario they see merits to either declare or not declare an outbreak.”
Kunz confirmed that in the last three cases, two had resulted in classrooms reverting to online learning while another classroom continues to conduct face to face classes. Those decisions have been made in consultation with local health authorities who advise on each case and surrounding scenario.
“Each case has its own uniqueness and complexities to it, and so we work with the Health Authority really closely and take their recommendations on whether the case and its unique merits warrants going to an online classroom or not,” explains Kunz.
The collaborative decision making process applies to whether or not an entire school’s face to face learning is shut down in favour of online. To this point, the Division and the SHA have not entertained a school wide shift to remote learning, Kunz notes that it’s always a possibility that the school is ready for depending on the progression of the situation.
St. Augustine School continues to follow the recommended health procedures in place since the return to school in the fall. Class management, material handling, physical distancing measures, and heightened cleaning and personal hygiene procedures all remain in place with no suggested changes. Kunz conveyed the Division’s appreciation to students, staff, and parents who are all working hard to stem the spread of the virus by following procedures. He also reinforced the other important factor of children staying at home when they are feeling unwell.
To this point, schools in the province have not been the epicentres of mass transmissions. Kunz says that those cases that have appeared in the schools have, by and large, been due to community transmission outside the school.
“I think honestly what we see happen in the community is reflected in the schools,” maintains Kunz. “We hear our health professionals, Dr. Shahab, and our new health minister reminding us to remember the basics: wash your hands, sanitize, distancing where possible, stay home when you’re sick, wear a mask where appropriate. We all need to keep vigilant in every aspect of our lives. There’s not just a border at school where we need to start or stop following rules.”
Kunz reiterated the statement that the risk for transmission remains low for those who were not in direct contact with the affected individuals.
When contacted about the St. Augustine cases, the Saskatchewan Health Authority stated that it would not provide information directly, but that all information would flow through the school division.