EDMONTON -- The pandemic is hitting students and schools hard as the Edmonton Public School Board (EPSB) projects to spend millions in response to COVID-19.

“Our division has invested quite heavily in response to COVID this year, including the development of teacher resource packages and supports for online instruction,” said Superintendent Darrel Robertson. “We’re estimating we will spend an additional $68 million in response to COVID. We’ve also asked for $28 million in surplus dollars and I am waiting to hear back from the ministry on access, but I’m fully confident we’ll have access to those resources.”

One trustee, Michael Janz, thought the amount in the reports was going to be “much higher and much worse.”

The board attributes some of the additional costs to measures, such as additional cleaning, taken to protect students attending in-person classes.

Even with safety measures in place, as of Nov. 9, 60 schools in the Edmonton zone were confirmed to have had in-school transition of COVID-19, according to EPSB.

In the first quarter of the school year, between Sept. 3 and Nov. 10, 10,500 students and 1,075 staff from Edmonton public schools were recommended or required to self-isolate.

There were 450 people in the division who tested positive for COVID-19 during this time, according to EPSB.

In September, 28 per cent of students attending Edmonton public schools opted for online learning. Robertson reported that while there wouldn’t be accurate data until a progress report is released, students, for the most part, are doing “quite well.”

“I’ve got real concerns over some of our kids not attending online classes and just sort of dropping off the face of the map.”

Trustee Nathan Ip cited concerns over the long-term sustainability of current procedures and the “compounding effect of this pandemic and having to isolate.”

EPSB is participating in a study with the University of Calgary to look at the impacts of COVID-19 on anxiety and mental health, according to Robertson.

The board is also looking into hiring additional mental health experts on a contract basis for the remainder of the year to help support students.