Calgary schools will welcome kids back to classes in short order, but some parents are left with a few questions on that return.
Earlier this month, the province released updated guidelines for re-entry into schools, including mandatory masks use in common areas like hallways and buses. Masks will also be mandatory for teachers and staff unable to maintain two metres distance.
The province has said that Alberta classes will return to near-normal operations this year.
Still, there are lingering questions for parents, particularly on how infections will be handled in relation to classes.
Here are the questions we posed to Alberta Education earlier this week:
- Are contingency plans in place, or a protocol to follow with regard to COVID-symptomatic or COVID-positives in Alberta teachers?
- If teachers have symptoms, are their classes cancelled?
- If teachers test positive, are students then tested and quarantined for two weeks? How will the learning continue?
- Would this continue to happen each time a student or teacher tests positive or exhibits symptoms?
- If there are substitute teachers, what measures are in place to have health screening of these individuals – or tracking if they move schools?
- Will they keep substitute pools for specific schools so we don’t cross-contaminate between schools?
Alberta Education said that teachers and substitutes will have to follow all measures, including daily screening for symptoms to determine entry into school.
“It is imperative that teachers and subs follow the guidance to complete the Alberta Health daily checklist and the other preventive measures as outlined in the school guidance documents,” their e-mail response read.
The province said that substitute teachers will have their choice of schools to work at. They also aren’t required to work at multiple schools.
“Where possible, it is good for substitute teachers to limit the number of schools they teach at,” their response read.
Earlier this year, the province limited the movement of health care aides in Alberta long term care centres. This was due to potential cross contamination in these facilities. Aides would regularly work shifts in different care centres.
The province did provide further guidance on school outbreak protocol late Thursday (Aug. 20) afternoon. This does outline what steps could be taken in the event of a teacher or student potential case.
ATA still with questions, asks for postponed opening
The Alberta Teachers Association wants the province to put off school opening until after Sept. 7. That came after ATA president Jason Schilling’s meeting with Alberta Education minister Adriana LaGrange.
Schilling said that teachers, principals and other staff need more time to prep for student re-entry.
“The minister listened to our concerns, and I feel that she has a better understanding of them now than before,” Schilling said in a release.
In a follow up, the ATA told LiveWire Calgary they still have many of the same questions as those previously listed in this article.
They expect to get more answers early next week.
The province also said that locally-elected boards are in the best position to “evaluate and respond” to any unique circumstances.
“This includes decisions regarding staffing and substitute teachers,” Alberta Education’s response read.
“In Alberta, school boards have the autonomy and accountability to make decisions about the programming and operations of their schools.”
The same set of questions was forwarded to the Calgary Board of Education. They were acknowledged as received, but no response has been provided.
CMOH to send her children to school
In Thursday’s COVID-19 update, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health said her kids will be headed back to class come September.
She said it’s up to every parent to decide what’s right for their family.
“As a parent of school-aged children, I have decided the value of in-school learning outweighs the risks for my family,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw said.
“Each parent is uniquely positioned to make the best decision for their family and school authorities have worked to provide innovative options to support student learning, wherever that may be.”