Alberta Teachers’ Association president Jason Schilling says the Omicron variant is a game changer and health and safety practices in schools will need to be adapted. (Contributed photo)

Alberta Teachers’ Association president Jason Schilling says the Omicron variant is a game changer and health and safety practices in schools will need to be adapted. (Contributed photo)

Alberta Teachers’ Association responds to winter break extension

The provincial government made the right call by delaying the start of school until Jan. 10, says the Alberta Teachers’ Association.

On Thursday, Minister of Education Adriana LaGrange announced students and teachers would return to school a little later as the COVID-19 Omicron variant spreads rapidly in the province.

READ MORE: Alberta extends winter break for schools as Omicron fears grow

January diploma exams for high school students are also cancelled.

“Omicron is a game changer and health and safety practices in schools will need to be adapted – time is needed for schools to prepare. We are also pleased to see that schools will be supplied with medical masks and rapid tests,” said Jason Schilling, ATA president.

“We acknowledge that this abrupt change is challenging for parents and families, and their support and flexibility is appreciated. Teachers ask for their patience and understanding as we work out how to keep Alberta families safe while ensuring students continue to learn.”

Schilling said the ATA is asking the following of school boards and the minister of education:

  • What additional measures will be implemented to limit further infection in schools?
  • What improvements will be made to improve air filtration?
  • What metrics will be used to determine when schools or classes move online?
  • How is the government preparing for the severe staffing shortages likely to result from implementation of isolation requirements?
  • How will substitute teachers be engaged and better supported to ensure their availability?
  • Will medical masks be mandated by the province in all jurisdictions at all grade levels?
  • Will vaccinations for students and staff be available in schools?
  • Will vaccine mandates for staff be implemented province wide?
  • What provincial standards is the government prepared to enforce so that school boards are not left holding the bag on these important decisions?
  • What will happen with Grade 9 provincial achievement tests in January?

“These are important questions that require answers and clear leadership from the province,” said Schilling.

“We have been making constructive suggestions and asking these sorts of questions throughout the winter break, and frankly throughout the entire pandemic.”

The association is prepared to work with government and provide advice that reflects teachers’ insights into the lived realities in the classrooms, Schilling added.

LaGrange is expected to provide another update with more details later this week.



sean.mcintosh@reddeeradvocate.com

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