Parents of students possibly exposed to COVID-19 at Winnipeg school want answers

By | September 14, 2020

Parents of children who attend a Winnipeg school where there was a possible COVID-19 exposure last week, are calling on the school to provide more information about it.

On Sunday afternoon, the province reported that a person went to John Pritchard School in North Kildonan all day Tuesday through Thursday while asymptomatic.

Parents say the letter they received from the school was vague. 

“They didn’t specify which cohort, which grades or where they were in the school, which is a little bit concerning,” said Britney Aselund, a mother to a Grade 6 student.

“It could be in her cohort. She could be around that person and it’s worrisome.”

Aselund says she’s considering keeping her daughter home from school until she learns more.

Masks are mandatory on school buses for all students, but in schools they’re compulsory for grades 4 and up. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

Catherine Harder says she’s frustrated by the lack of information from the school.

“I have three children that are in different grades and at different sections of the school at each time of day. For us to not know the age or even just a general state of where they’ve been … it’s frustrating,” she said.

Kelly Barkman, the superintendent for the River East Transcona School Division, which John Pritchard School falls under, says it was thoroughly cleaned on Sunday when the division was informed of the positive case.

“[We] immediately initiated our plan for a positive case in our schools or buildings that includes a deep clean of the school as well as using an electrostatic fogger which can disinfect surface areas in minutes,” she said.

“The school has also communicated to their school community with a letter from Public Health.”

The province says it doesn’t release details of cases at schools “to protect the privacy of the individual and to reduce any possible stigma.”

Aselund and Harder say they understand that, but they need more to go on.

“I get the personal information and the lack of sharing. Just tell me they’ve been in a classroom, A, B and C.”

“It’s very, very vague.”

Tom Murphy’s grandson goes to John Pritchard school. He says more needs to be done to protect children from the virus, and that starts by ensuring they’re physically distancing.

“We have to start thinking about places we can move children out of their school so there aren’t so many in a classroom,” the former principal said. 

“You can’t do cohorts in the schools we built a hundred years ago, these schools are old,” he said adding that the classrooms are small.

Murphy says hand washing and access to sanitizer is imperative to prevent the spread of germs.

WATCH | Dr. Brent Roussin on avoiding stimatizing people who test positive in school system

The first positive COVID-19 case identified in Manitoba’s school system is a student who attended the first day of class on Tuesday while asymptomatic and “did everything that they were supposed to do,” says Manitoba’s top doctor. 0:41

John Pritchard School is one of four schools in the province where possible COVID-19 exposures took place since classes resumed.

A person who was asymptomatic went to Daniel McIntyre Collegiate Institute in the West End on Wednesday in the morning and Thursday in the afternoon, the province reported on Sunday.

On Saturday, there was a potential exposure to the novel coronavirus connected to a Grade 5 and 6 classroom in École New Era School at 527 Louise Ave., Brandon School Division superintendent Marc Casavant said in a news release that day.

On Wednesday, the province warned that a Grade 7 student was in class at Winnipeg’s Churchill High School on Tuesday, and used Winnipeg Transit while asymptomatic.

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