Indian Head, Sask., school to start year online after staff member tests positive for COVID-19

Indian Head Elementary School will begin the school year with online learning after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19.

The Prairie Valley School Division said the Saskatchewan Health Authority told it about the positive test Saturday.

Contact tracing determined five more staff members considered close contacts to the person who tested positive would also need to self-isolate as a precaution, so six staff from the school are isolating in total.

The decision to begin the school year with online learning was due to that reduction in staff, said Alana Johnson, communications manager for the Prairie Valley School Division.

“School closure, moving to online learning, may not be what happens in every one of these circumstances,” Johnson said.

“In another circumstance, it could be one teacher that was impacted on the weekend … no contact within the school.”

The start of the school year will also be delayed by two days for Indian Head Elementary School students, as teachers are being given Tuesday and Wednesday to prepare to deliver online learning, which will begin Thursday.

In-class learning is scheduled to resume on Sept. 17. No other schools in the division are affected.

‘A pivot’ for teachers

This was a different start to the season than the teachers were planning for, which is why the school division delayed the start of classes at the school, Johnson said.

“We just wanted to give the team a little bit more time to prepare. It’s kind of a pivot for what they’re going to do.” 

Johnson said if teachers are feeling well, they will work and teach from home.

The division did online classes at the end of the school year last year and Johnson said the school is ready to do that again.

Teachers are really resilient and I think they’re going to do a really great job through all of this.– Alana Johnson, communications manager for the Prairie Valley School Division

In the spring, the division supplied nearly 500 devices to families in need, including Wi-Fi hotspots, tablets and laptops, Johnson said.

“We’re prepared as a school division to continue supporting our students … should they require additional support to be able to access online learning.” 

She noted that because cleaning protocols have been properly followed at the school, no further cleaning was required after the case was disclosed.

“That’s really why having these protocols is important,” Johnson said. “That’s why following that direction is valuable, because when you do, it ensures that everything is safe at every stage of the game.”

Not the last disruption

This might be the first unexpected disruption to the school year due to COVID-19, but Johnson said the division anticipates it won’t be the last. 

She said decisions about how to handle a positive test will need to be made on a case-by-case basis.

“Teachers are really resilient and I think they’re going to do a really great job through all of this.… Changing on the fly is something that teachers do all the time, every day. And obviously, COVID adds a new layer to that. 

“But, you know, we have some really great teachers in our division, and I think they’re really excited to get back to doing what they do, which is … doing good things for kids.”

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