‘We’ve all hit a wall’: COVID-19 exhaustion hits Calgary schools

'We've all hit a wall': COVID-19 exhaustion hits Calgary schools

More than 13,000 students and nearly 700 teachers are isolated due to exposure to COVID-19 in Calgary’s two public school boards.
One of those affected is Courtney Walcott, a teacher at the Western Canada High School.

He says that more than a year after the start of the pandemic, it is not something new for students or teachers, but as cases of COVID-19 continue to arise in Calgary schools and have spillover effects on their lives, it had negative consequences.

« [The pandemic has] dragged on and the isolations became harsher and harder and more and more students were leaving. We have all hit a wall. I was talking with my colleagues about our burnout, and I think most of us got into that spring break without ever feeling as tired as we are today, ”he said.

“Even when things are the same, it’s like there’s a guillotine just waiting to fall around us. We are waiting for the shutdown and we see the numbers go up and we see people getting lax on the rules. ”

“The relaxation of the rules, children see it too”

While COVID-19 protocols, including mask wearing and social distancing, are enforced by staff as much as possible, Walcott says students at his school need only look outside of 17th grade. Avenue SW to see a different story.

“There are groups of people walking up and down as soon as the sun comes up, and it’s clear that the fatigue that hit the city, that hit the world,” he said. “The relaxation of the rules, the children see it too. And so when students see adults acting a certain way, I can only imagine how that is internalized. ”

Walcott says students at Western Canada High School see members of the public disregarding public health orders on 17th Avenue all the time. (Google Street View)

A 12th grade student at Dr EP Scarlett High School, whom CBC News agreed not to name due to the potential repercussions of her school, said she felt extremely frustrated at the way some of her peers were ignoring the health restrictions.

“They are certainly not following the guidelines. They spend their lunch time in their car without a mask, which seems to be a big problem in schools right now, ”she said.

“People are not completely honest”

After a few cases were identified at school before spring break, the student said she and many of her peers were upset to see people who they believed would certainly be in close contact with a positive case. attending school.

“It just feels like people aren’t completely honest,” she said.

And when she brought her concerns to an administrator, she said she felt closed off.

“They were very insensitive. It looked like he wasn’t happy that I picked it up. ”

Eventually, the student, along with a dozen of his peers, decided to leave school that day because they didn’t feel safe.

Later that night, the student and his whole class were named as Close Contacts of a positive case and they are now spending spring break in isolation.

Students report feeling exhausted

William Aberhart senior Nicole Major is also spending spring break in isolation after two COVID exposures at school.

“I really think a year later it’s pretty exhausting and you can definitely feel that at school everyone is feeling it. We all miss that social connection that makes school so fun, ”she said.

The self-described child of the group said that being a part of the band and the musical ensembles and clubs at her school has really made a difference in her life.

“It really helped me find a social life and friends,” she says. “Obviously with COVID all of that has changed a bit, but we’re still trying to find ways to stay connected by doing these things differently now. ”

While Major is stuck at home and unable to see friends or extended family during her school break week, she was supposed to be on a long-awaited group trip to Europe.

“I should be in Austria right now, which is pretty sad,” she said.

“But I know I’m doing all I can to stop the spread and help protect vulnerable populations right now, which I can really think about, I guess. ”

Parent Tara Beattie says it has been difficult to watch her children struggle and to know that there is little she can do to change the current situation. (Submitted by Tara Beattie)

Major’s mother Tara Beattie, associate professor at the University of Calgary, said it was difficult for parents to watch their children struggle and lose the social opportunities they once had, and to know that there was nothing they could do to personally change the situation.

“I think she has done a great job over the past year. And overall, she’s been pretty optimistic. But it’s difficult, ”she said.

“I try to recognize that what they are feeling is correct and real and that they have a right to be frustrated and upset. ”

Calgary school boards unable to meet all sub-requests

Calgary’s two public school boards say they are struggling to meet all requests for substitute teachers at this time.

The Calgary Catholic School District said it was unable to meet an average of 20% of its requests for visiting teachers each day, while the Calgary Board of Education said 10% of under-requests remained unmet in March before spring break.

A Calgary middle school teacher, whom CBC News agreed not to name because she fears professional reprisal, said when her high school son was infected with COVID-19, she needed to find someone to replace her .

“I was looking for a submarine. The board usually has subs to handle quarantine situations, but it seemed to me that they weren’t one of those people, ”she said.

“I was lucky to find a submarine but it was very difficult. It seems to get harder and harder as more people are quarantined. ”

“We are hitting burnout”

The teacher said the March break was a welcome respite.

“I would say everyone’s reaching the point of exhaustion because if the kids are away due to COVID or whatever, we also have to do online stuff for them, which you teach in a whole different way,” she says.

“Honestly, it was a challenge… we are in full burnout right now. ”

Despite multiple requests over the past two weeks, the CBE said no one was available for an interview. But in a written statement, the board said it was important for everyone to follow all current health measures.

“These efforts will help reduce the impact of COVID-19 on our schools when we return on April 6. ”

Senior Superintendent Bryan Szumlas of the Calgary Catholic School District says it’s important for parents and teachers to continue to be transparent with young people about the COVID-19 pandemic. (CBC)

Calgary Catholic Chief Superintendent Bryan Szumlas said there was no doubt COVID-19 had emotionally drained staff and students.

“When they wake up in the morning they’re worried, you know, that they might have COVID themselves or that they might be asymptomatic and maybe pass it on to others,” he said. . “And then as an education teacher, being that role model for the students, helping the students disinfect… and enforcing the extra rules we’ve never had before, all of these things take a toll on the staff, c ‘is on.

Szumlas said that despite all the chaos, it is important to be transparent with the children about the situation.

“It’s going like a roller coaster, up and down, because we’re in this third wave. We currently have 47 schools that are either on alert or in an epidemic state. But my advice is to keep the lines of communication open. with young people, ”he said.

“It means teachers have to be there to listen to their concerns. And, of course, parents … need to keep talking to them about COVID-19, especially reminding them of the importance of taking this seriously and following health measures.


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