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Alberta considers 3 scenarios for return to school this September

Alberta’s “preferred and likely” scenario is that students will return to daily in-school classes at the beginning of the year. School would be “near normal” with health measures. | Stock photo

Joanne McQuarrie – Local Journalism Initiative Reporter | reporter@fitzhugh.ca

There are three scenarios for September in Alberta Education’s school re-entry plan, announced June 10.

But implementation of any of them is based on direction from the province’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The province’s final plan is slated to be provided no later than August 1.

As such, Grande Yellowhead Public School Division (GYPSD) wasn’t able to address questions about staffing and organization yet. 

“Regardless of the re-entry scenario the ministry announces on August 1, please know that GYPSD will be working throughout the entire division to ensure the health and safety of students and staff,” said Dr. Kelly Harding, assistant superintendent (board relations, communications, curriculum, instruction and assessment), in an email.

The school re-entry plan is founded on four principles: safety, learning, funding and flexibility.

And the province says the safety of children, students and staff comes first.

Alberta’s “preferred and likely” scenario is that students will return to daily in-school classes at the beginning of the year. School would be “near normal” with health measures.

There is also an option to partially resume in-school classes with additional health measures.

Or at-home learning could continue, with in-school classes suspended or cancelled.

Adriana LaGrange, Minister of Education, said: “We are providing clear direction and the certainty parents and the school system need to plan ahead and get ready for what the new school year may look like. 

“We are hoping, and it is likely, students can return to daily classes at school while taking health precautions, but we have to prepare for all possibilities.”

School authorities are expected to plan and prepare for all three scenarios because the pandemic situation could change at any time and transitioning from one scenario to another may be required with short notice.

For the in-school scenarios, health measures will be put in place to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19.

Staff and students will be screened routinely, there will be enhanced cleaning in all areas of the school, a strict stay-at-home policy for any students or staff who exhibit COVID-19 symptoms and hand washing expectations when entering and exiting the school and classrooms and before and after eating.

Classrooms will be reorganized to allow for more physical space, students will be put into cohorts where possible and equipment will be cleaned between uses when it’s shared. 

Students and staff will not be mandated to wear masks but masks may be considered where there is prolonged close contact (more than 15 minutes) and when staying two metres apart can’t be done. 

Jason Schilling, president of the Alberta Teachers’ Association, said: “Alberta’s teachers are looking forward to supporting our students as we transition into the 2020-21 school year. 

“As our recent survey indicates, teachers are concerned about the health and safety of themselves, their colleagues and their students. 

“We expect to work with [the] government to strengthen and improve the plans for re-entry to ensure that schools can provide healthy and safe environments for teachers and students.”

The plan to continue education includes children and students, as well as students with disabilities, in public, separate, Francophone, charter and independent schools, and Indigenous students attending provincial schools and independent ECS operators. 

The 2019-20 school year will end for children and students as per their local school authority calendars. Provincial achievement tests and diploma exams are cancelled and schools will provide all students with final marks.

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