Required self-isolation of close contacts following a few COVID-19 cases leaves school short-staffed

By Steve Hubrecht
[email protected]

Several confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Columbia Valley has led to the early closure of two schools and one preschool, and the early end of the youth soccer season.

Early last week, the Windermere-based Mountain Ridge Academy announced it would close beginning on Tuesday, June 22, following a possible COVID-19 exposure on June 15, 16 and 17, and would remain closed until its summer break was scheduled to begin anyway in early July.

On Wednesday, June 23, Columbia Valley Youth Soccer sent out a message to participating families letting them know that although the season was almost over, the remaining games and practices would be cancelled.

“We have also been in communication with Interior Health. Due to the increased level of COVID-19 contact tracing in our club and in respect to how these isolations affect our players, their families, and our volunteers, sadly, we will not be able to complete our last academy session nor last practice,” read the letter, adding that as of now, there are no changes to upcoming camps set for later this year.

Then the functional early closures of Eileen Madson Primary School (EMP) and Windermere Elementary School (WES) were announced in letters sent to parents of EMP and WES students on the evening of Thursday, June 24. Students were initially scheduled to attend until Tuesday, June 29, but instead had their last day of school on Thursday, June 24.

The letter, sent by Rocky Mountain School District Six superintendent Karen Shipka, outlined the individuals who tested positive are self-isolating at home and that a number of students and staff members identified as close contacts have also been asked to self-isolate. Given the number of staff unable to work at the school, the district decided to functionally close the school on June 25, 2021, for the remainder of the year. The letter defined a ‘functional closure’ as a voluntary closure of a school due to operational limitations as a result of a number of staff and/or students needing to self-isolate at home.

 “Please note, that this is a functional school closure and has NOT been declared a COVID-19 school outbreak and there is NO ongoing transmission in school and never was,” read the letter.

The letter outlined efforts the school district is taking to help make the sooner-than-expected transition to summer break as smooth as possible for students and parents, noting that teachers would be reaching out to families and the school would be arranging for the pick up of student belongings and progress reports during the first week of July.

Martin Morigeau Elementary School in Canal Flats, Edgewater Elementary School in Edgewater, J.A. Laird Elementary School in Invermere, and David Thompson Secondary School in Invermere remained open this week as scheduled.

According to Invermere mayor Al Miller, the latest figure he’s heard on the number of COVID-19 cases in the Columbia Valley is 20, from an update he received on Friday, June 25. “This is an uptick” in numbers said Miller, but added he’s not sure it amounts to a big surge or full-blown outbreak, as some residents and social media reports have claimed.

“Certainly, we still need to be mindful of one another and respectful,” Miller told the Pioneer. “If you haven’t had your vaccinations yet, I ask you to seriously look at getting that done.”