Students returned to Charlottetown Rural High School on Monday morning for the first time since they found out one of their peers had tested positive for COVID-19 over the weekend.
About 300 desks were empty — some of those students in self-isolation, while others chose not to attend.
"It was not a regular day at school," said Dale McIsaac, the school's principal.
"As the week goes along, I think we'll see attendance increase until we get back to what we call normal."
Concerns over school opening
The case, involving a 15-year-old boy, was announced by the Chief Public Health Office (CPHO) on Saturday. The student and around 70 close contacts are now in self-isolation.
And although the CPHO determined it was OK to go back to the classroom, opening the doors this soon is not a decision the P.E.I. Teachers' Federation agreed with.
"This was a traumatic event in our community," said Aldene Smallman, the federation's president.
"It raises such alarm for people who are in those buildings, for the staff, students and families in that building every day."
Smallman said she thinks the situation should have been handled differently. She said staff are stressed and not enough time was provided to review operational plans or give people an opportunity to have questions answered.
"Our concerns would be the health and mental wellness and safety of our teachers, our members, and students."
I'm not going to say we hit the ball out of the park because that wouldn't be accurate. — Norbert Carpenter, PSB
The Public Schools Branch (PSB) said because the case took place over the weekend there was time to work with the CPHO and have the school properly cleaned.
"If it was a weekday we may be in a different situation today where school may have been shut down," PSB acting director Norbert Carpenter told CBC News: Compass host Louise Martin.
How the student got COVID-19 in the first place remains unknown. His hockey team is also cancelling activities for the next 14 days.
"That team is isolating for two weeks," said Mike Hammill, president of Hockey P.E.I.
"They've gone through testing — they'll go through another run of testing as per the guidelines."
Room for improvement
More testing is needed but so far, none of the over 1,000 tests from the weekend have come back positive.
"It's unfortunate it happened to that one student," said 14-year-old Anthony Artz, who attends Charlottetown Rural High School. "But the fact it didn't happen to anyone else I think is very fortunate for us."
Grade 10 student Kate Ramsay agreed.
"I was a little nervous but it was OK after everyone got tested," she said.
And while Carpenter said he thinks the situation was handled well this time, there is always room for improvement.
"I appreciate the fact that the teachers federation have given feedback and have questions," he said. "This was our first case and I think overall it went well.
"But I'm not going to say we hit the ball out of the park because that wouldn't be accurate."
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