'An impossible task': ATA skeptical over Alberta's school re-entry plan
CALGARY -- The Alberta government will provide an update Tuesday on its plan to send kids back to school this September.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw and Education Minister Adriana LaGrange will give the update during a news conference scheduled for 9 a.m. as many teachers and staff anxiously await more information.
The province previously released plans on July 22., which outlined back-to-school protocols at "near normal" conditions for K-12 classes with additional health and cleaning measures in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Several parents are still skeptical about the ambiguity of the plan as class sizes are already too large and physical distancing is not possible in some cases.
The province says it will address those concerns and has already released a re-entry tool kit with complete plans for spacing out kids inside classrooms by putting them in cohort groups. Class schedules will also be staggered to prevent large groups from gathering in hallways.
Additional safety measures include the frequent sanitization of high-touch areas and a recommendation to wear a non-medical mask or face covering. Individual school boards can introduce those protocols, much like the Calgary Board of Education did so last week by recommending teachers and students wear masks.
Alberta’s re-entry plan also include a $120 million funding increase for school authorities, along with another $250 million in additional capital funding for COVID-19 upgrades.
The Alberta Teachers’ Association says that funding will be crucial as school boards will take on the financial burden to implement deep cleaning protocols.
President of Calgary Public Schools, Bob Cocking, notes that funding has more kept up with high student enrolment. Several other teachers are also concerned that the province’s latest funding increase for schools still won’t make up for the $126 million in cuts that school boards faced in the 2019 budget.
"Teachers have had many questions about how they are to set up their classrooms to accommodate the (two metre) distancing and for many, that is an impossible task," Cocking said. "Teachers shouldn’t have to be asked to clean their own classrooms, nor should their students. So the government should provide extra cleaning staff and resources to ensure that we have safe learning spaces for our staff and students."
Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced on Thursday last week that additional guidelines for return-to-school will be released in the coming weeks as public health officials continue to review school re-openings around the world.