The Alberta Teachers’ Association is suggesting the start of the school year be pushed back so schools can better prepare for the arrival of students.
This past Saturday, the ATA put out a release saying president Jason Schilling was “demanding” a meeting with the Education Minister Adriana LaGrange to discuss safety concerns regarding the return of classes this fall.
Schilling said the meeting, which took place Wednesday and lasted for more than an hour, was “frank and informative,” said Schilling.
“Teachers want to return to school, they just want to be safe about it,” said Schilling.
“The government now has to act. We will continue to advocate to ensure schools open as safe and as orderly as possible.”
Nothing was formally agreed to at the meeting, but Schilling said he believes “government was very interested in what we had to say” in regards to delaying the start of the school year.
“We talked specifically about the notion that we’re taking a medical plan that’s been put forward by the chief medical officer of health (Dr. Deena Hinshaw) and trying to make it an educational plan,” he said.
“Teachers and principals need time to reconcile those two things together. I’ve heard that from dozens and dozens of teachers and administrators just these last two days.
“They need time to get this right and I would much rather be overprepared than underprepared for the start of the school year. So push the start of the year back and then allow school boards after that point to open up as they see fit.”
The ATA is suggesting a “total delay” of students until after Labour Day – schools that are ready will then be able to welcome students.
The association discussed its seven-point plan for safe reentry during the meeting. A couple of these points include, ensuring the reduction of viral spread by increasing outdoor air exchange and creating the conditions for social distancing by creating smaller classes.
Substitute teacher availability, safety and supports were also discussed, Schilling added.
In a statement following the meeting, LaGrange said ensuring the safety and wellbeing of staff and students has “guided all decision-making” around school re-entry.
“We understand that parents and teachers across the province want a safe return to classes in the fall,” said LaGrange.
“That is why we will continue to follow the expert medical advice of our Chief Medical Officer of Health, who approved our school re-entry plan and who, along with her team, worked to develop the health guidelines for schools.”
The plan also has support from school superintendents and schools boards and was developed in consultation with the education system as a whole, LaGrange added.
“As we continue to work with Dr. Hinshaw and our education system, we will make adjustments as necessary,” she said.