Parents want to have a say in how the education system operates while the threat of COVID-19 hangs over Alberta schools.
About 62,000 parents have completed an online survey designed by the Alberta School Councils’ Association to gather parents’ input on school plans for the fall.
“As a parent of five kids, I believe I have the most skin in this game. These are my precious babies that I’m sending into this education system in the middle of a pandemic,” said association president Brandi Rai.
“Because of that, we really believe that parents need to be asked what they would like to see.”
Survey participation has been overwhelming, she said.
“It’s really good to have this large of a group, because we can authentically say several thousand parents are experiencing this and they would like this.”
Parents had until midnight Thursday to complete the survey on school re-entry planning. Results will be made public and shared with Alberta Education.
The short survey asked parents if they wanted classrooms to open in the fall, whether they have concerns about safety measures to prevent COVID-19, online learning, and more.
Recently, Alberta Education announced that no decisions have been made yet about how education will be provided in September.
The province was developing three scenarios: normal school operations; partially reopening schools with some restrictions; and continuing at-home learning.
Rai said the survey was launched quickly after the scenarios were announced to let parents know that their voices matter.
“I believe parents need to see themselves reflected in the plan, and their experience in the plan, or there will be no buy-in in the fall for them,” Rai said.
Some schools in Quebec reopened to students on Monday. Attendance was not mandatory, and many parents decided not to send their children back to class.
Jaelene Tweedle, chair of the citywide school council for Red Deer Public Schools, said she wondered how much input parents had in Quebec before those schools reopened.
She was pleased so many Albertans responded to the school councils’ survey.
“I’m hoping it leaves (government) with a heightened sense of accountability when they make their decisions,” Tweedle said.
Bruce Buruma, community relations director for Red Deer Public Schools, said he was not surprised by the huge response to the survey, because many parents are anxious about what re-entry means.
“We’re hearing from parents daily. We’re getting feedback at our school level,” Buruma said.
He said a lot could happen in the next three months as the pandemic continues, and said the district is going to continue to communicate with families and let them know where the decision process stands.
But ultimately, it’s the province that will decide what happens, said Buruma.
“While they are accommodating for local autonomy, and the local circumstances within the communities, the authority for those decisions is going to be at the provincial level: the government, as well as the chief medical officer of health.”