Teacher's association president: Alberta's current re-entry plans 'unacceptable'
CALGARY -- The president of the Alberta Teachers Association described the province's re-entry plan for resuming classes this September as 'unacceptable', after an assembly meeting passed resolutions calling for, among other things, smaller classes, increased support staff, better mental health supports and placing public health nurses in schools.
"Teachers are worried," ATA President Jason Schilling said, in a release issued Saturday. "And they do not have confidence in the (education) minister (Adriana LaGrange) or her plans to reopen schools. They made it clear they expect the minister to be talking with the ATA and listening genuinely to the concerns of teachers."
The statement was issued following a number of motions that passed at the 2020 Annual Repreentative Assembly (ARA), where 450 delegates representing all 61 of Alberta's public, separate and francophone school divisions called for a re-think of the re-entry plan for Alberta schools this coming September.
Chief among those concerns was class size.
"How around we going to keep 30 students two metres apart over the course of the day?" Schilling said, in an interview Saturday with CTV News.
"Then there are some concerns about masks," he added. "Will everybody wear one? Will they wear them all day long? And how will that work?
"Teachers are focused on solutions," he said. "The number one priority of teachers right now is to ensure that the re-entry to schools is done as safely as possible. Teachers recognise that this is only possible when the ATA and government are working together on a plan that serves the health and safety interests of students, teachers, all school staff and their collective families."
Schilling added that there are significant concerns about funding levels, particularly for support staff. A meeting is scheduled with LaGrange for Wednesday, which Schilling requested in Saturday's release, but which LaGrange's office said was already confirmed by the time the statement came out.
A spokesperson for LaGrange's office issued a statement, saying, "Minister LaGrange spoke with Mr. Schillingat 8 a.m. this morning and accepted a meeting this coming Wednesday. I am unclear as to why this organization continues to 'demand' meetings through the media and social media when they already have secured a meeting."
The statement defended the re-entry plan, saying it was developed "based on the advice of Alberta's Chief Medical Officer of Health (Dr. Deena Hinshaw) in consultation with the entire education system, including the Alberta Teachers' Association, individual school authorities, the College of Alberta School Superintendants and the Alberta School Boards Association.
"Our number one priority," it continued, "is to ensure a safe and successful return to school for both our staff and students, and we will continue working with the education system and the Chief Medical Officer of Health to ensure that happens."
With files from Stephanie Thomas, CTV Calgary