Skip to main content
Skip to main content

Community Update - School Renewal Plans

School Renewal Plan with school lockers in the background

UPDATE: October 8, 2021

At the beginning of this school year we launched our school renewal plan centered around Require, Recommend, Respond, and Respect.  The majority of today’s update will focus on Respond, as we share with you how Foothills School Division continues to adapt to new and updated provincial school measures.

These include reporting and contact notifications, rapid testing, and an encouragement to implement vaccine mandates.  I know there are many questions and while we haven’t been able to obtain all the answers, I feel that it’s important to share with our school community exactly what we do know at this point in time.


Contact Tracing / Notifications

We are thankful that the province will once again support Foothills School Division in keeping our school communities informed.  

  • Commencing on October 6, Alberta Health began posting information publicly about COVID-19 cases in schools.  You can access this provincial information here.
  • While many within our school community are aware of our FSD COVID-19 Dashboard, it’s important to know that reported numbers only include cases that were self-disclosed to us.  We anticipate that there will be a discrepancy between FSD and the new provincial reporting until AHS begins to reach out and notify us of all cases affecting our schools.  This process is expected to begin on October 12.


Outbreak Status

  • Several of our schools have received notice of an outbreak due to 10% absenteeism within the building.  This measurement will no longer be used going forward.  AHS has redefined an outbreak to take effect when 10 or more COVID-19 cases within a 14 day period are identified within the school.
  • As always, we will continue to share any outbreak status information with school communities upon receiving it from AHS in our efforts to help guide your family decisions.


Online Learning

  • If three or more COVID-19 cases are identified within a five day period in a Kindergarten to Grade 6 classroom, AHS will issue an exclusion notification, shifting students to at-home online learning for 10 days.
  • Families should prepare for this possibility as it may occur with limited notice.


Rapid Testing

  • Beginning in late-October, rapid testing kits will be provided to Foothills School Division for Kindergarten to Grade 6 schools, starting first with schools that are experiencing an outbreak status.
  • This provincial rapid testing program will be voluntary. If you choose to participate, students and staff will be provided with rapid testing kits to test twice per week for four weeks. These tests are designed for individuals that are asymptomatic and are to be done at home. Symptomatic children can only be tested at an AHS assessment centre and should not use the rapid tests.


Vaccination Requirements

We have received a letter from the Ministers of Education and Health encouraging Foothills School Division to develop policies that require proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test for teachers, staff, and any adult who enters a school.  Students would be exempt from any potential vaccine mandates.  We are working through the process and there are several factors for our school community to be aware of:

  • FSD continues to believe it is a provincial responsibility to lead any health-related policy that is outside the mandate of education.
  • Vaccine requirements for school system staff are incredibly complex and need to take into consideration collective agreements, contracts, unions, and human rights legislation. Lacking provincial support, we are in the process of seeking the necessary legal counsel and medical expertise required to inform our decisions.
  • To implement a vaccine mandate will require significant monetary resources both in the development and the implementation.  At this point in time it appears that FSD may be required to provide rapid testing opportunities for unvaccinated adults without additional funding.  This could potentially divert unreasonable amounts of dollars out of the classroom.
  • And lastly, the Board of Trustees is required to approve any Policy within Foothills School Division.  This cannot occur while we’re in the midst of province-wide school trustee elections.  In the interim, we continue to collect information to present an informed recommendation to the newly elected Board of Trustees at our next meeting scheduled for November 10th.


We’ve been informed by Alberta Education that guidance documents are presently being developed to support these changes and we expect to receive them next week.  We are committed to working through these resources quickly in the hope that they will provide further clarity to our many unanswered questions.

Please know that we join you in experiencing many unknowns.  The uncertainty combined with a lack of clear direction in education from the provincial government continues to cause undue stress and frustration at all levels of our school system.  We recognize that there is an underlying level of worry and concern from our students, their families, school staff teams, and leadership.

This continues to be a most challenging year and I want to confirm for you that we remain committed to supporting our students and advocating for our staff.  I regularly reach out to the province requesting guidance and a plan to guide us through the next few months.  It’s my belief that we all require clear and transparent communication and I apologize for being unable to share a more detailed update with you today.

As I recognize this growing mental wellbeing concern within our school communities, I want to also provide an update on our FSD Cares initiative:

  • FSD has recently received funding totalling $530,000 from the Public Health Agency of Canada and an RBC Mental Health grant.  We will be using these dollars to support wellness initiatives across our schools.
  • We are in the process of hiring for two limited term positions to support this work, a Mental Health Navigator and Student Health Facilitator.  These roles will promote and facilitate a coordinated and integrated approach to health and wellbeing for our students, their families, and our staff team.
  • I, along with our Division leadership team, are developing plans to address the wellbeing of our staff team.  We know that our staff dedicate themselves each day to the success of our students and recognize that they need support in order to continue this work.  We ask for your partnership and understanding as we strive to ensure our team has the tools, resources, and time necessary.

Thank you for your ongoing support, adaptability, and understanding.  As we celebrate Thanksgiving this weekend please remember to be kind to your neighbour, be kind to your family, and be kind to yourself.  Together, we will continue to get through this.

Chris Fuzessy
Superintendent of Schools

Larry Albrecht
Board Chair


UPDATE: September 17, 2021

Alberta’s government has introduced a series of new province wide COVID-19 public health actions.

While in the past we would provide detailed updates to our FSD families with revised school measures, we are currently awaiting further guidance documents from Alberta Education and can only share preliminary information at this time.

We encourage students and families to become familiar with the following new provincial health measures:


Updated mask measures

  • Students in Grade 4 - 12:
    • Mask use is now provincially mandatory in schools for students in Grade 4 - 12.
    • Students may remove their mask if:
      • They are seated at a desk and not interacting with others.
      • They are consuming food or drink in designated areas.
      • They are engaged in physical exercise and select arts performance.
    • Mask use is mandatory for all students while on the school bus.
  • Students in Junior Kindergarten - Grade 3:
    • Mask use is recommended and encouraged in common areas and shared spaces for students.
    • Mask use is mandatory for all students while on the school bus.
  • Mask Exemption Process:
    • Schools no longer have the authority to grant mask exemptions. Mask exemptions can only be granted by a nurse practitioner, physician, or a psychologist with this provincial form.  
      • The province of Alberta directs the process for a mask exemption.  Anyone unable to wear a mask due to an approved medical condition must provide their medical exception letter to their school administration.
      • As the mask exemption process is now a provincial CMOH Health Order, all prior Foothills School Division exemptions will no longer be valid.

We understand that the pandemic and ongoing changes to provincial mask requirements and Public Health Orders are challenging.  While the vast majority of our families have been extremely supportive, we kindly remind you that Foothills School Division staff are required to enforce these rules.  We ask for your ongoing support as we maintain safe and welcoming environments within schools, at our bus stops, and in conversations with our team.  


Changes to events and activities

Our schools are rapidly attempting to adjust some pre-planned events to align with provincial restrictions.  While we await provincial clarification for school settings, we are preparing to introduce gathering restrictions, physical distancing, virtual opportunities, and masking requirements.  We thank you for your patience and understanding as activities are restructured or postponed to accommodate updated measures.


Cohorting of students in Kindergarten to Grade 6

Cohorting is required for elementary students and families can expect their child to have physical education, music and other activities within their classroom cohort.  It is important to recognize that schools may choose to have two or more cohort groups combined for some activities.  While every effort will be made to limit existing elementary cohorts, the size of your child’s cohort will depend on the physical space of the classroom or learning setting.



We understand that families may have concerns with recent provincial announcements and may be considering different learning options for their child.  Please know that HUB@Home registration remains open until September 29, 2021.  You’re welcome to contact your current school administration to learn more about transferring your child to online learning for the remainder of the 2021-22 school year.


As mentioned above, the information included in this message is preliminary and may change once we have an opportunity to review provincial school guidance.  We remain committed to sharing any updates with our school community as we receive them. In the interim, if you have any questions you are welcome to visit our FSD 2021-22 School Renewal Handbook or contact your teacher, school, or my office.

Lastly, we recognize the significant impact COVID-19 has had on students, families, and our staff team.  We understand that there are many unique challenges and circumstances across the Foothills community, and we are dedicated to working together to ensure we provide ongoing high quality education and extracurricular activities to our students throughout the school year.

Together, and supported by one another, we will get through this.  Sincerely,

Chris Fuzessy
Superintendent of Schools


UPDATE: September 15, 2021

Alberta’s government has introduced a series of new COVID-19 public health actions.  We encourage students and families to become familiar with the following new provincial health measures:

  • Updated school mask measures and exemption process
  • Cohorting of students in Kindergarten to Grade 6
  • Capacity limits and physical distancing requirements for events and activities

Please know that in the past we would provide an email update to our FSD families with revised measures.  This communication will be delayed as we await further guidance documents from Alberta Education.  We're committed to sharing provincially confirmed information with our school community prior to the end of the week.

Thank you for your patience and understanding as we work together to once again pivot in response to health measures.  If you have any questions you are welcome to review our recently updated FSD 2021-22 School Renewal Handbook or contact your teacher, school, or my office.


Chris Fuzessy
Superintendent of Schools


UPDATE: September 6, 2021

Dear FSD families,

Thank you for reaching out with your questions and concerns in follow up to the provincial announcement last Friday.  Allow us to address some common themes we have heard over the weekend.

  1. Mask use - We want to clarify that in addition to the school bus, mask use has extended to be required in indoor common areas and public spaces.  Your child will not be required to wear a mask while in learning spaces:  Classrooms, participating in athletics, in CTF/CTS courses, physical activity, and/or arts performance.

    1. Your child will not be wearing a mask all day, only for brief periods of time while in shared spaces.  This additional layer of protection is in place for when an individual would be interacting with many others from outside of their regular cohort groupings.

    2. This temporary measure mirrors the provincial indoor mask measure and will be reviewed as soon as provincial guidance allows.
  1. Exemptions - We want to assure you that Foothills School Division will continue to respect parental choice.  While we are asking for your cooperation, we also understand that some families may request a mask exemption.  To do so, simply email your school informing them of your choice and send your child to school without a mask. 
  1. Online learning - HUB@Home registration remains open for families who wish to enroll in online learning.  If you are interested in transferring to home-based learning please reach out to your school administration to begin the process.


We’ve been asked why we have strengthened health measures and are now requiring masks in common areas and shared spaces.  This was a lengthy discussion and we’re happy to share with you the factors that contributed to our decision:

  1. Foothills School Division, upon consultation with Public Health, determined that crowded common spaces would be considered a public indoor space and that provincial mask measures should temporarily apply.
  1. We all know and agree with the benefits to learning & socializing mask-free and this will still occur in our classrooms and learning spaces for a majority of the day.
  1. We wanted to reinforce with our children that they’ll be required to wear a mask when entering a public building throughout Alberta.  This consistency will help them to form a regular routine for as long as this provincial measure remains in place.
  1. We’ve been asked why the temporary mask measure was extended to younger students when in the past year it began at Grade 4.  FSD will continue to respond and react to current advice and provincial recommendations.  Mask use orders across Alberta now begin at the age of 2.  We want to repeat, these young learners will only be required to wear masks for short periods of time while in common areas.
  1. While Foothills School Division is no longer required to contact trace, we will still notify families of positive cases in a school when we’re made aware of them.  This approach has led to a rather shocking discovery in the first few days of school.  We had 3 confirmed cases reported in 3 different schools across the Division.  This emphasizes that COVID remains a risk to students and staff in our schools and transmission is occurring within our community.
  1. Current trends and case numbers remain concerning and we want our children in schools.  We want to continue providing activities, athletics, and other opportunities to our students.  Nobody wants the province to mandate a return to online learning.  Small measures now may prevent more drastic measures throughout the 2021-22 school year.
  1. Lastly, it’s an unfortunate reality that the province is no longer providing clear health guidelines to school authorities.  In the past we would receive detailed plans and actions. For the 2021-22 school year we have been told that there is no guidance beyond what is in place provincially, and to implement locally.  This has been challenging as we attempt to make decisions within a vacuum of information.  We are educators, not health authorities, and doing our best to obtain advice from medical experts.


The Foothills School Division School Renewal Plan remains focused on:

Require  -  Recommend  -  Respond  -  Respect

It’s on that final point that we would like to end this message.  The staff team at Foothills School Division are experienced, caring, and dedicated educators.  We are focused on providing the best learning opportunities for our students within a safe and caring environment, and with a minimum amount of disruption to learning. While we understand that there are varying opinions on how to achieve this, we do believe that we all want what is best for our students, your children.

With this in mind, we kindly ask that you continue to respect the choices of each individual student and staff member.  None of us have experienced a pandemic before and we all are doing our best to get through this.  The strength within our shared community is found with our support for one another, and we remain committed to supporting our students, staff, and families.

We look forward to welcoming our children back to school tomorrow.

Thank you,

Foothills School Division Board of Trustees & Senior Leadership Team



UPDATE: September 3, 2021

Alberta’s government has introduced new COVID-19 measures. These provincial decisions were made after careful consideration and are based on the advice of Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.

Mandatory mask use is now required in indoor public spaces and workspaces across Alberta. Foothills School Division will align with this provincial health measure by strengthening mask requirements.  As a result, a non-medical face mask will now be required while inside FSD schools and locations for:

  • All students (Junior Kindergarten - Grade 12).
  • All staff members
  • All visitors

Masks can be removed indoors while:

  • Within a classroom engaged in instruction.
  • Consuming food or drink in a designated area.
  • Participating in physical exercise, music, band or arts performance

The Foothills School Division response plan continues to be summed up in four words:

Require  -  Recommend  -  Respond  -  Respect

Please be assured that we will continue to respond as the provincial context changes.

Thank you for your understanding as we work together to ensure that each student is supported as we once again pivot in response to provincial guidance. We remain proud to serve our community. If you have any questions you are welcome to review our FSD 2021-22 School Renewal Handbook or contact your teacher, school, or my office.


Chris Fuzessy
Superintendent of Schools


August 20, 2021

Welcome to the 2021-22 school year.  Foothills School Division is pleased to announce the resumption of activities such as:

  • Local and provincial field trips
  • Athletics and Extracurriculars
  • All fine arts and options classes
  • Special events
  • Provincial exams
  • Graduations and Celebrations
  • School Council meetings
  • Volunteers and visitors in schools

On Friday August 13, 2021 Alberta Education released their 2021-2022 School Year Plan.  At the same time Alberta Health released their Guidance for Respiratory Illness Prevention & Management in Schools.  Within these documents the Government of Alberta has indicated that school restrictions may be removed other than the mandatory wearing of masks on public transportation.

In-school public health measures continue to be a topic of much discussion within our shared community and across Alberta.  I have heard various advocacy viewpoints throughout the pandemic and appreciate the common link connecting each perspective - a successful return to in-person learning.  We collectively agree that it remains the best option for our children and staff team.  I thank each person who reached out to convey their concerns, ideas, and recommendations.


The Foothills School Division response plan can be summed up in four words:


Require  -  Recommend  -  Respond  -  Respect


First, there will be times and circumstances where we require compliance with mandatory provincial health measures. These include:

  • Students (K-12) and staff must wear a mask on school bus transportation (to be reviewed by the province on September 27, 2021).
  • Daily COVID-19 health check and staying home when sick.
  • Promotion of hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette.


Second, we will recommend strategies as we move forward.  We strongly encourage and recommend:

  • Students and staff, wear a mask when entering the school, leaving the school, and in common gathering spaces inside the school (i.e. hallways and washrooms).
  • Physical distancing wherever possible.
  • Class scheduling options that reduce traffic flow in busy areas such as staggered entry, exit and recess / lunch times.
  • Cohorting, particularly at the elementary level, although schools may choose to have two or more cohort groups combined for some activities.


Third, we will continue to respond by:

  • Reviewing ongoing direction from Alberta Education, Alberta Health Services, and Public Health.
  • Updating our FSD 2021-22 School Renewal Handbook with known strategies that reflect what is known about COVID-19 in our community.
  • Remaining in communication with our school community by sharing relevant updates and providing opportunities to collect feedback.
  • Working with our School Renewal Committee in ensuring that the 2021-22 school year guiding principles remain an area of focus.


Lastly, we respect the personal choices of our students, families, staff, and greater school community.  As many individuals are experiencing different comfort levels, it is imperative that we all use good judgement and continue to be considerate and supportive of one another.  We navigated the pandemic last year by working together to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our students and staff team, and this partnership remains essential as we begin the new school year.  We look forward to your support in implementing these risk mitigation measures as a layered approach that will ensure continued activities and in person learning in our schools this year.  Together, and supported by each other, we will get through this.


I thank you for your ongoing understanding and cooperation as we step towards a return to normal while striving to provide high quality learning and extracurricular opportunities for our students.  Our entire school community is invited to submit their questions, concerns, and feedback on this shared and important work by visiting our school renewal engagement page.


We remain proud to serve our community. If you have any questions you are welcome to review our FSD 2021-22 School Renewal Handbook or contact your teacher, school, or my office. Thank you once again for your ongoing support and partnership with Foothills School Division.


Chris Fuzessy
Superintendent of Schools


image description
Back to top