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Contact tracing coming back to Alberta schools

Last Updated Oct 6, 2021 at 6:36 am MST

An empty teacher's desk is seen at the front of a empty classroom at McGee Secondary school in Vancouver on September 5, 2014. Alberta is planning to reopen schools in the province this fall even as cases of COVID-19 in the province continue to grow. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

CALGARY (660 NEWS) – After months of pressure coming from school advocacy groups and parents, Alberta has decided to reinstate contact tracing in schools.

“We have always maintained that our first priority is the safety and security of our students and staff and that will always be our number one priority,” said Adriana LaGrange, Education Minister.

“We started the year with very strong protocols. [In] mid-September, when there was a state of emergency, we added additional masking for grades four and up and all staff. We have also implemented cohorting for K-6 schools.”

Parents will soon be able to have a better idea if their child has been exposed to a positive COVID-19 case in school, but it won’t be taking effect right away. The province expects contact tracing will be back up and running in about four to six weeks.

“It’s not that easy to just flick a switch and start contract tracing again. We are going to have contact notification starting next week,” said LaGrange.

More staff will need to be hired before complete tracing actives can resume.

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Rapid testing will also be offered in K-6 classes in schools that experience outbreaks to start.

“We will continue to monitor very, very closely and if additional measures are required, we will absolutely do that,” LaGrange said.

“Right now, we have nine schools that have transitioned to online learning for operational reasons,” she added.

The free kits will need to be picked up at the schools.

The return of contact tracing comes as Alberta continues to struggle with increasing COVID-19 case loads.

Contact tracing had been taking place in schools last semester. However, as part of changes when restrictions were loosened this summer, those measures were scaled back in classrooms.