Last month, local parent Sheena Desmarais learned her five daughters who attend King George School had all contracted COVID-19.
However, none of these cases have been reported by the Brandon School Division so far, which is a major source of frustration for Desmarais and her family.
"To me, it doesn’t seem like they are being truthful," she told the Sun Tuesday. "It seems like they’re trying to put out as little information as possible."
Desmarais revealed that her five daughters, whose ages range from five to 10 years old, all tested positive for the virus in late September, only a couple weeks after the K-12 fall semester began.
While her daughters have since recovered from COVID-19 and returned to in-person classes on Tuesday, some of the symptoms are lingering for Desmarais, since she also contracted the virus.
"I still can’t taste or smell anything," Desmarais said, mentioning that she is only partially vaccinated. "I’m the only one who had shortness of breath, headaches, fatigue."
But Desmarais’ bigger concern right now is the lack of transparency between BSD, public health and the broader school community in Brandon, especially when it comes to the COVID-19 cases those groups choose to report.
On Saturday, BSD did confirm that two cases had been discovered in a Grade 1/2 CR and Grade 4/5 S classroom, with the individuals in question possibly being infectious between Oct. 6 and 7.
This marks the first time the division has publicly reported any COVID-19 cases at King George since the start of the 2021-22 academic year.
However, Desmarais maintains that these two cases do not involve any of her daughters.
The Sun reached out to BSD on Tuesday to ask why the public wasn’t informed about Desmarais’ five children contracting COVID-19 in September.
While BSD doesn’t comment on the status of individual students, a division representative told the Sun through an email that notifications are only sent out to parents under certain circumstances.
"If a student or staff member tests positive but did not attend the school during the period of communicability, a notification will not be given to the school community," the BSD representative wrote Tuesday. "Since the person was not in attendance during the period of communicability, there is no exposure at the school."
However, Desmarais is convinced that her daughters contracted the virus while attending King George based on the timeline of events and how school officials reacted to news about their illness.
"When my daughters got sick, the principal actually phoned me, and he apologized to me and said they’re taking extreme measures now to sanitize everything," she said.
Plus, Desmarais revealed that some of her daughters were enrolled in the classrooms later flagged by BSD officials as being the source of two recent COVID exposures (Grade 1/2 CR and Grade 4/5 S).
After going through this experience, Desmarais has become wary of how BSD reports on its COVID-19 cases, especially since the division has attached the phrase "the infection is not believed to be acquired at school" to virtually all of its COVID-19 notices released so far this semester.
Moving forward, Desmarais said she would like to see improved transparency in terms of the division’s COVID-19 notices, since these news releases are designed to keep King George parents better informed about how to ensure the safety of their children during the ongoing pandemic.
"If somebody in my kid’s [class] got COVID, I would want to know," she said "Because I probably wouldn’t want to send my kids to school, and you don’t know what underlying conditions other kids have and how it will affect them."
According to the province’s COVID-19 school tracker map as of Tuesday evening, King George School has endured at least five cases in the two weeks prior to Oct 11.
Since the beginning of the 2021-22 academic year, 11 Brandon-based K-12 schools have registered COVID-19 cases. Outside of King George, these exposure sites include: Riverheights School, Vincent Massey High School, St. Augustine, École O’Kelly, Betty Gibson School, École New Era, Crocus Plains Regional Secondary School, Kirkcaldy Heights School, Linden Lanes School and Christian Heritage School.