Rocky View Schools (RVS) will now require staff, parents, volunteers, and visitors to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test prior to entering an RVS school or facility, according to a letter issued to parents prior to the Thanksgiving long weekend.
Regarding the vaccine mandate, the letter indicated there would be a transition period whereby staff will be allotted time to become fully vaccinated if they so choose.
“RVS administration is in the process of finalizing the details of this new requirement and will share more specifics as soon as they are available,” the letter stated. “A timeline has not yet been established ... for processes to be in place.”
The letter assured parents the vaccine requirement will not apply to students, as the government currently has no requirement for pre-Kindergarten to Grade 12 students to have specific vaccinations to attend school.
“School divisions cannot deny students access to education due to their immunization status,” the letter continued. “As strongly emphasized by Alberta’s [chief medical officer of health], vaccines are the most effective means of protecting yourself and others from COVID-19.
“We continue to encourage all those eligible to receive the vaccine to get their shots as soon as possible.”
According to the letter penned by RVS Superintendent Greg Luterbach on Oct. 8, since the pandemic began, the public school division has worked diligently to protect the health and safety of both students and staff.
“As a public-school division with a responsibility for 26,500-plus students in our care and as an employer of 2,600-plus staff, this is a necessary way forward in doing our part to keep our students safe and in school and protect our staff,” Luterbach’s letter stated.
Luterbach added the additional measures reflect RVS’ latest attempt to stem the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in schools following the advice of the provincial government, the Chief Medical Officer of Health, and Alberta Health.
Additional changes were made to operations influenced by the new government directive, including positive COVID case notification to families, shifting to temporary at-home learning when three or more positive cases are found in a Kindergarten to Grade 6 class, and redefining an outbreak as 10 or more cases, rather than 10 per cent absenteeism. These changes took effect Oct. 12.
“I understand this is yet again another set of new COVID-19 health protocols and they may be upsetting for some,” he noted in the letter. “I cannot express enough how grateful I am for your patience and support as our schools, communities, and the province continue to battle this pandemic.”
The letter indicated that, depending on the severity of a COVID-19 outbreak, RVS may decide to shift entire classes or grades to temporary at-home learning. Moving an entire school online remains an Alberta Education decision.
For further details on the latest COVID-19 measures in RVS schools, those interested are encouraged to refer to RVS’ 2021-22 Return to School Operational Plan at bit.ly/3C0v5dU