Fort McMurray public and Catholic schools move grades 7-12 online

Fort McMurray’s public and Catholic school divisions are moving classes online for grades 7-12.

A joint application was made Thursday to move classes online until April 30 due to increasing COVID-19 numbers as well as students and staff in isolation, according to a news release. Alberta Education approved the move on Friday.

There were 600 new cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Fort McMurray in the previous two weeks, the release said. Around 18 per cent of the entire region’s population are students or staff of the two school divisions.

The Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo had 657 active cases of COVID-19 as of Friday, equating to 787 cases per 100,000 people.

“A coordinated approach between both school divisions, for one cycle of isolation, is intended to serve as a necessary circuit breaker for the 10 schools across both divisions who have more than one case,” Jennifer Turner, superintendent for the Fort McMurray Public School Division, said in the release.

Absenteeism rates this week in grades 7-12 students within the public division averaged 47 per cent and 30 to 35 per cent in the Catholic division.

Earlier in the week, Calgary’s public and Catholic schools announced they would be moving grades 7-12 online.

“We are seeing a sharp rise in cases among school-aged Albertans, as well as those in other age groups,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said in a release Wednesday. “While this is an operational decision, I support it and ask that parents and students continue making safe choices to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“Social activities outside of school can easily spread the virus, so please continue following all the health measures in place,” Hinshaw said.

As of Friday, 478 schools — around 20 per cent — were on alert or experiencing outbreaks. 

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