By Cole Parkinson
With the outbreak of Coronavirus still rampant, plans of travel for Horizon School Division schools may change.
“We have been in communication with Alberta Health Services around the Coronavirus. Most of you are probably aware that the outbreak continues to increase,” said Wilco Tymensen, superintendent of schools during the Horizon School board’s regular meeting on Feb. 24. “Right now, Alberta Health Services, WHO (World Health Organization) and the Government of Canada do not have a travel advisory for international travel and so on. I just thought I would bring it up to the board.”
As several schools are planning school trips within the near future, the topic of what the board’s position would be on whether or not they would want those trips to continue was needed with Coronavirus spreading to several countries.
“Normally we follow when there are advisories. If the government says ‘don’t go to this country or don’t do this’, we adhere to that. We do have three or four schools that are planning an Easter trip to Europe so Erle Rivers, Myers, Vauxhall and Arden T. Litt. This year, I believe they are going to Italy, Germany, England and often they hit two or three countries,” added Tymensen.
“Italy is kind of shutting down too because they have had a surge of Coronavirus,” added Christa Runka, board member.
Over 70 countries had reported cases of Coronavirus at the end of February and WHO has raised the global threat level to very high.
Over 90,000 cases have been confirmed globally, Canada has had 30 confirmed cases and no deaths as of Wednesday morning, according to WHO.
“I’ve already told schools to please share with parents. If there are recommendations coming from the government not to travel, we will be cancelling those trips and parents are informed that they should be getting cancellation insurance. That is always a requirement. The question becomes from the board, where do you stand on international trips at this point?” asked Tymensen.
“I would recommend that if there is a travel advisory saying there should be no travel, we have to take action. I think it would be proactive to refer parents to the WHO website because they put out a situational report on a daily basis,” answered Jen Crowson, board member. “It also shows a map of hotspots throughout the world.”
Additionally, it was explained that if the group of travellers was headed to a highly infected area, they could redirect to a different country.
“Most of our schools travel with professional tour companies and if we suddenly say at the last moment we are not going to Italy because there is an outbreak, and we are going to redirect to France, they typically accommodate that. The issue becomes, when you are travelling on an airplane, you have no idea of where those people have been. If you walk into an airport, you have all types of world travellers,” said Tymensen. “I’ll keep schools up to date on that and let them know that at this point the board’s decision is to monitor the situation and follow the recommendation.”