By Cole Parkinson
The new school year has been one like no other.
While the determination students and staff would be back full-time within schools wasn’t made until the middle of summer, so far so good for Horizon School Division.
“Since the beginning of the school year, I think we have handed out over 10,000 pieces of PPE,” said Wilco Tymensen, superintendent of schools at the school board of trustees Sept. 28 board meeting. “We continue to focus on the safety of the kids and staff.”
The continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic throughout the year has seen continuous effects on the division as school enrolment numbers have seen a dip across some schools in total.
“Right now, we are down about 57. That number will fluctuate from school to school. I don’t have the exact numbers for schools because some of our early learning kids get full funding,” continued Tymensen.
While total numbers of students across the division are down, a number of schools did see some new faces walking their halls in the fall.
“Some of our schools are up a little bit. Barnwell is up four or five kids, D.A. Ferguson is up 15 or 16, Enchant is up, I think, two, Lomond is up three and Warner is up 11,” explained Tymensen.
Other schools though did see some decreases when autumn hit southern Alberta.
“Other schools, I will say were hit harder by COVID-19. When you look across the province, there are some jurisdictions that are missing 20-30 per cent of their kids. In Edmonton and Calgary, the number is really high. We’re talking about 20-30 per cent of their kids not coming back. For us, it’s closer to about three per cent and that they have shifted to at home learning,” continued Tymensen. “Some of the numbers I’m giving to you include those families because they are still connected with us. We have three teachers working with our at home learning families and there are about 100 kids. We have another 25 or so that are at home learning where the parents are the primary supervisor providing instruction.”
Tymensen further highlighted schools within the division that have seen a drop in enrolment.
“Central, I think was down around 38 kids. Chamberlain was down around eight or so. Dr. Hamman was down about 15, Enchant was down around six, Hays was down 10 and Taber Christian was down about 45. Vauxhall Elementary was down around 14 and Vauxhall High School was down about 11,” he said. “When I say down, that means down from projections. Those projections were from December because of the new funding model.”
While COVID-19 did dampen some of the projections from last year, there were also other factors at play.
“I know, for Dr. Hamman as an example, they had three or four families who left our attendance boundary. So it wasn’t about homeschooling, they moved to Lethbridge,” said Tymensen.
Trustee Jen Crowson also highlighted there had been a large family who had moved away from Hays which was another reason for the smaller number of students.
In early October after the Thanksgiving long-weekend, W.R. Myers High School, D.A. Ferguson Middle School and Taber Mennonite School complex staff, students and parents were alerted to an active COVID-19 case as all three are located in the same facility.
“Nothing new to report really,” said Tymensen in an email to the Advance. “We did have an individual test positive over the long weekend. AHS has investigated and identified that some students and staff needed to quarantine for 14 days as they may have been exposed to COVID via the individual who tested positive (prior to them showing symptoms). We sent a letter home to all staff to inform them of the situation and AHS has communicated with those who require self-isolation. My understanding is that no one else has tested positive to date. We are grateful to AHS for their quick response and continue to implement best practices to stop the spread of COVID-19.”