Back to school again: In-person learning resumes in Alberta except in Wood Buffalo
CALGARY -- After weeks of remote learning, the majority of Alberta's students returned to the classroom Tuesday.
The province ordered all kindergarten to grade 12 students be sent home for two weeks on May 7 as COVID-19 case rates threatened to overwhelm Alberta's hospitals.
At the time, thousands of students in higher grades in both Edmonton and Calgary had already been learning from home.
The exception to the back-to-school plan are kindergarten to grade 12 students in the regional municipality of Wood Buffalo, which includes the city of Fort McMurray, whose students will continue to learn from home until at least May 31.
The province says case numbers in Wood Buffalo have not been trending downward at the same rate as in other regions.
Education Minister Adriana LaGrange says the two-week plan has been successful in nearly all areas of the province and she's confident all students will finish the remainder of the school year in the classroom.
Zoe Duquette, a Grade 12 student at Western Canada High School in southwest Calgary, says she’s excited to get back to class but worries about the possibility of shutting down so close to graduation.
"You get to see your friends which is nice and then also it’s nice to actually be in class and learning," said Zoe. "I think the biggest thing is if you get trapped in isolation right before a final exam before the end of the year that would be hard to make up."
She adds it's nice to know she and her classmates can get vaccinated and help protect their families at home and teachers from COVID-19.
"If I get it I’ll probably be fine but I don’t want to spread to anyone, especially teachers."
Many working on the frontlines of the pandemic worry it’s too early to send kids back to class.
Dr. Darren Markland, an ICU physician at the Royal Alexandria Hospital in Edmonton, says when schools shut down he sees significant lower admission rates to the ICUs and hospitals.
"We are making bets that we have enough vaccine in place that we won’t see a fourth wave but quite clearly we don’t have that number yet and opening them now is premature."
Dr. Markland says he doesn't underestimate how devastating the pandemic has been on students and kids but says the province has a history of easing restrictions too soon.
"We’re so close. To open up now — when we could just do this for a couple of weeks — I just think is premature."
With files from The Canadian Press.