COVID case sends students home

Masha Scheele

Precautionary measure impacts seven classes at EMV

Seven classes at Ecole Mountain View were sent home as the result of an individual from the elementary school testing positive for COVID-19 on Monday, Nov. 30.

“We are sending home people as a precautionary measure and there’s one positive COVID-19 case here, it affects a lot of people, but there has only been one COVID case. Our hope is that everybody will stay home as a precaution and will be safe and will be OK,” said Kurt Scobie, principal of Mountain View.

Scobie explained that this is not considered an outbreak, but students will have to monitor for symptoms during their 14 days of required isolation after last contact with the case.

In the meantime, teachers will provide students with at-home assignments and learning until they return to school on Dec. 9.

Teachers are working on what the next six class days will look like and will send out packages to their students.

“I think the teachers feel it is easier overall to move into online learning. It’s not the same difficulty as there was in March,” Scobie said.

The school was notified of the positive COVID-19 result on the morning of Nov. 30, but the individual had been self-isolating since the onset of symptoms on Nov. 25.

Through contact tracing, anyone who was in close contact on Nov. 23, 24, and 25 was notified.

School staff immediately determined that the individual worked within close proximity of students in two Grade three classes who were then sent home.

“You want everybody to be safe and you don’t want to send anybody home scared. We were sending home Grade three’s in the middle of the day. Their teachers did a fantastic job of keeping them calm, being supportive for them, all of it. Answering all the questions they needed to,” Scobie said.

Alberta Health Services (AHS) explained that anyone in the same room as the individual for at least 15 minutes, masked or not, would be considered a close contact.

The individual was wearing a mask for the duration of their time in each classroom.

After speaking with AHS, five more classes were notified that the individual had been in their classroom and they would be required to stay home as well. 

Families from one grade one, grade two, grade six, and two grade five classes were contacted.

Scobie said that while the process went smoothly, contacting the families and caretakers was difficult. Teachers and staff don’t want to send students home and want to provide the best learning environment as possible, he added.

“We feel bad and nobody wants to be the person that has COVID. Everybody that’s here cares about these kids and wants to do the best by them and it’s devastating to be the person that has covid and feels they’ve disappointed everyone,” Scobie said.

Parents were very understanding and staff were able to answer as many questions as they could.

Scobie explained that siblings of primary contacts can still continue coming to school and only primary contacts have to stay home to isolate.

All classes are cleaned every day and affected classrooms will undergo a deep clean.

Students don’t have to get tested unless they show symptoms. Pending any other positive cases, students and teachers will return to school on Dec. 9. 

Families of students and staff were reminded to monitor for any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 and fill out the online Alberta Health Services COVID-19 self-assessment or call Health Link at 811 if they notice symptoms.

Scobie noted that the health unit has been very supportive as well as the Grande Yellowhead Public School Division (GYPSD).

“Everytime we’re confused about something and we ask, we get answers. I get answers from my division that are good and I get answers from AHS that’s been good,” Scobie said.

Dr. Kelly Harding, assistant superintendent at GYPSD, stated that the division is proud of how their teachers are handling the situation and are focusing on kids learning. 

“From a division perspective, we are very appreciative of the hard work of every school leader and the families and the staff who contribute to keeping the school risk free of transmission,” she said.

Diana Rinne, senior communications advisor at AHS, noted that an SMS text system was implemented to quickly notify persons of their positive COVID-19 test results.

“This means that people are getting test results 24/7 and receive the instructions to immediately isolate. As such, when students test positive for COVID-19, parents often receive a text message ahead of being phoned by AHS and will often notify their child’s school before AHS has completed contact tracing,” Rinne said.

AHS is prioritizing school-aged children for case investigations and contact tracing and streamlining the process to ensure that teachers and school staff are easily identified for prioritization as well.  

With confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 continuing to rise across Alberta, local Dr. Noel Corser stated that Hinton’s hospital is also feeling the pressure.

“Our hospital doesn’t exist in a vacuum, but is affected by the overall health system – currently Jasper is unable to admit new patients so they may come here, and we’ve had to open space for Edmonton patients because Edmonton is overflowing,” Corser stated.

When Edmonton is severely backed up, it’s more likely that patients who need Edmonton-level care won’t be able to get it, and that’s scary, he reiterated.

Corser stated that people should not avoid coming to the hospital if they’re sick, which happened to some extent in the spring, and led to worse outcomes in some cases.

People should avoid leaving their house if they’re sick for any reason other than going to the hospital, he added.

“We got lucky in the spring, and have been lucky since then. Ignoring the public health advice is a bit like drinking and driving–you can get away with it for a while, but sooner or later you’re going to kill somebody,” Corser said.

Doing the right thing will get Alberta through this, he added, which means abiding by the restrictions.

During the council meeting on Dec. 1, CAO Emily Olsen noted that the mandatory mask bylaw has been received well with some questions and without any enforcement issues. There had been no complaints about anyone not following the bylaw.

As of Dec. 1, Hinton had 12 active cases of COVID-19 in its region.

Due to a provincial order passed on Nov. 27, all regions and municipalities that entered into enhanced status during the order, like Hinton, will remain in an enhanced status until at least Dec. 15, Olsen added.“That’s been confirmed that Hinton has passed that threshold after Nov. 27 and will remain enhanced until further notice,” Olsen said.

Community Grant Fund continues to decrease

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

Council approved funding through the Community Grant Program (CGP) to six applicants in the only grant intake of 2020, which totaled $19,180.

Due to COVID-19 pandemic related financial and operational impacts, the spring intake of the Community Grant 2020 was cancelled.

Six applications for the fall intake met the eligibility criteria and were recommended for funding by the Hinton Grant Funding Advisory Committee (HGFAC) during the regular meeting of council on Dec. 1.

“They all had really great proposals and projects that all would be very valued to our community,” said Jessica Hearsey from HGFAC during her presentation to council.

“We had only $19,000 so we didn’t have enough money to give full funding to all of them, which we would have liked to do.”

The Hinton Boxing Club was the only organization that received its full request of $1260 for an automated external defibrillator (AED).

The Hinton Friendship Centre received $5000 for its Circle of Learning Program, Grande Yellowhead Public School Division (GYPSD) received $5000 for Community Violent Threat risk assessment training, Ecole Mountain View received $4000 for an outdoor classroom gazebo, the Hinton Adult Learning Society received $2000 for its Youth Teaching Adults Digital Skills program, and the Hinton Curling Club received $1920 for the U18 AB provincial curling championships.

Hearsey explained that the Circle of Learning Program would provide tutoring for indigenous parents to help their children in school, something that seems even more valuable now with online learning.

Coun. Dewly Nelson asked about a contingency plan for the Curling Club if they don’t move forward this year, and Hearsey noted that they didn’t discuss a contingency plan.

The Town of Hinton’s intern, Mir Faiaz, explained that once funding is approved by council, administration provides the organization with 80 per cent of the funding. The remaining 20 per cent is provided after the organization submits their final financial report detailing what they’ve done with the funding.

“We cannot make sure, according to our current process, whether they are actually using those funds for the exact program or project they applied to the community grant for, although we hold back 20 per cent of the funding,” said Faiaz.

If projects and programs are not reported on, the remaining 20 per cent stays in the grant program.

The grant is funded from the Automated Traffic Enforcement (ATE) Reserve.

The available contribution in 2020 is $19,180 based on 2019 ATE net revenue, which decreased since earlier years.

Up to 30 per cent or a maximum of $120,000 can be allocated annually to the CGP from the ATE reserve as per Town policy #078.

Administration anticipated a larger amount during the 2020 budget process, but CAO Emily Olsen explained during a council meeting in July that due to an unanticipated amount of write offs required for unpaid ATE fines this number was reduced. Overall ATE revenue has decreased due to the reduction in operational ATE locations within the community.

In the fall of 2019, $29,727 was available for the second yearly CGP intake, while requests totaled $39,000. Only $26,000 was awarded to three local non-profit organizations.

In 2019, a total of $54,050 was available, down from $119,047 in 2018, and $243,181 in 2016.

From 1999 to now, the Town of Hinton has provided $1.58M in funding to local non-profit organizations through the Quality of Life and Community Grant programs.

Applications must meet certain eligibility requirements, including a price tag between $1,000 and $10,000, support of eligible expenditures, an approval of funding on a matching grant basis, and that any previous funds from the Town met reporting requirements.

These applications are then reviewed and ranked, using council-approved criteria, by the Hinton grant funding advisory committee. This committee makes recommendations to council in the awarding of Community Grant Program funding.

Applications require information regarding the organization, the project, finances, and so on.

An Applicants’ Guide is available online and the Hinton Connects team can answer questions about the application.

Each year, the CGP provides local groups with funding to maintain, improve, or initiate community projects, operations, and events.