A statement from Education Minister Adriana Lagrange’s office said the government approved online learning for some schools in Alberta out of an abundance of caution. (Advocate file photo).

A statement from Education Minister Adriana Lagrange’s office said the government approved online learning for some schools in Alberta out of an abundance of caution. (Advocate file photo).

Alberta Federation of Labour calls school outbreaks alarming

‘This virus can spiral out of control very quickly’

St. Joseph High School in Red Deer is one of three Alberta high schools that have switched to online learning due to recent COVID-19 outbreaks.

The outbreak at St. Joseph had more than 10 cases as of Tuesday.Two high schools in Edmonton each had 10 or more cases as well as a school in Airdrie.

In addition, eight schools across the province have between five and nine cases. Those schools have not returned to online learning.

Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, said now is the time to consider sending all Alberta students back online, or at least in communities where COVID rates are high.

“We don’t say this lightly. We believe that students should be in the classroom. But the situation at schools is very alarming,” McGowan said.

“It’s clear that the provincial government has not done nearly enough to keep students and staff safe. Now we’re dealing with the added threat of these new variants of COVID which are much more transmissible, and likely more lethal.”

He said recent outbreaks that have shut down schools are bad enough, but with the appearance of the new variants in Alberta, the continued inaction by Education Minister Adriana LaGrange and the government “are just unconscionable.”

Related:

COVID cases: Red Deer school reverts back to at-home learning

COVID-19: UK variant may have entered broader community says Alberta health minister

McGowan said the new variants have spread elsewhere in the world, and it was only on Monday that the province even acknowledged that they might be a concern in Alberta.

“But even then, they didn’t announce any plans to address the issue. By the time the new variants take hold in this province and start sweeping through our communities, it will be too late to act.”

He said now is the time to take precautionary measures, like moving to online learning.

“Where is (LaGrange) and why isn’t she taking any new measures to ensure the safety of students and staff?”

Recently the labour federation called for a dramatic increase in funding for schools to hire more staff when other staff must isolate and to shrink class sizes to promote physical distancing. Mandatory investment in proper ventilation in schools was also needed to heed the scientific evidence on aerosol transmission of COVID-19.

McGowan said it’s almost as if the province has not learned anything since the pandemic struck last March.

“If our experience with the first and second wave taught us anything, it’s that this virus can spiral out of control very quickly. The result is that we may be doomed to deal with the third wave caused by these new variants as a result of their refusal to see this pandemic as seriously as it should.”

A statement from Lagrange’s office said the government approved the requests for the shutdowns out of an abundance of caution.

“We consider the operational needs of the school — such as having numerous staff in isolation that makes it hard to continue with a high level of learning for students in school — when making this decision,” wrote Justin Marshall, the minister’s press secretary.

He said that, as of Friday, more than 90 per cent of schools in the province had no known cases of COVID-19 and less than half a per cent of students and staff were confirmed to have been infected.

With files from The Canadian Press



szielinski@reddeeradvocate.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

CoronavirusRed Deer Catholic Regional School DivisionSchools

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta Health Services declared a COVID-19 outbreak at Revera Aspen Ridge on Feb. 1. (Photo by Advocate staff)
Two COVID deaths linked to Revera seniors residence in Red Deer

35 active COVID cases at seniors residence

Red Deer musician Lorry Boschman has written a song about love in the time of COVID-19. Proceeds from his single, Romance during a Pandemic, will be donated to the local United Way. (Contributed photo).
Local musician records a song about love in the time of COVID-19 — for charity

Lorry Boschman will donate some proceeds to the United Way

Preliminary data shows Alberta’s suicide rate declined in 2020 — but some mental health critics say it’s too early to draw any conclusions since more dire pandemic impacts are only now being felt. (metrocreative stock)
Alberta’s suicide rate seems to have declined in 2020

But some experts say it’s too early to credit the pandemic

The union representing workers at the Olymel meat processing plant in Red Deer confirmed the death of a worker on Wednesday. (Advocate file photo)
Union confirms death of worker from Olymel plant

An investigation by the UFCW 401 local has confirmed another death connected… Continue reading

Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre can accommodate up to 20 patients requiring a ventilator, says Alberta Health Services.  File photo by Advocate staff
Opinion: UCP government reneging on Red Deer hospital funding

Another year, another Alberta budget and another blow to central Albertans. Budget… Continue reading

The logo for the CBS Corporation appears above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019. CBS All Access will be renamed Paramount Plus on Thursday, bringing heaps of new streaming programming to its subscribers, unless they're in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Richard Drew
CBS All Access rebrands as Paramount Plus in Canada, but it’s a name change only

CBS All Access rebrands as Paramount Plus in Canada, but it’s a name change only

A copy of the book "And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street," by Dr. Seuss, rests in a chair, in Walpole, Mass., Monday, March 1, 2021. Canadian librarians and educators are reassessing several Dr. Seuss titles that are being pulled from publication because of racist and insensitive imagery. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Steven Senne
Canadian libraries reassess Dr. Seuss books pulled from publication for racist images

Canadian libraries reassess Dr. Seuss books pulled from publication for racist images

Who have provinces pegged to receive COVID-19 vaccines in the coming weeks?

Who have provinces pegged to receive COVID-19 vaccines in the coming weeks?

Major-General Dany Fortin, left, looks on as Minister of Public Services and Procurement Anita Anand provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020. The Public Health Agency of Canada has set aside up to $5 billion to pay for COVID-19 vaccines. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Public Health Agency of Canada budgets $5B for COVID-19 vaccines, treatments

Public Health Agency of Canada budgets $5B for COVID-19 vaccines, treatments

A vial of Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a family doctor office, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021 in Paris. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP -Christophe Ena
Vaccine panel recommends going up to 4 months between doses of COVID-19 shots

Vaccine panel recommends going up to 4 months between doses of COVID-19 shots

The courthouse in Iqaluit, Nunavut, is shown on Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020. A Nunavut judge has granted a mining company's request for an injunction against hunters who protested at its site for a week last month, halting the mine's operations. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Emma Tranter
Nunavut judge grants injunction against hunters who protested at mine site

Nunavut judge grants injunction against hunters who protested at mine site

A woman walks towards the entrance of the TransAlta headquarters building in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, April 29, 2014. Calgary-based power generator TransAlta Utilities Ltd. says it has set a goal to be carbon neutral by 2050. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Larry MacDougal
Alberta utility TransAlta vows to be carbon neutral by 2050 as it notes $167M loss

Alberta utility TransAlta vows to be carbon neutral by 2050 as it notes $167M loss

Most Read