Teachers and students are at the whim of hasty government decisions that appear to have no basis in science, says the president of the Alberta Teachers’ Association.
Jason Schilling spoke out on Wednesday about the frustration educators are experiencing from wide swings in government pandemic policy.
Starting on Monday, students will no longer have masking requirements in schools. Yet just a month ago, the government was so worried about the spread of the Omicron variant that students were given an extended winter break — and new medical-grade masks were ordered for them.
Now, before some of these medical-grade masks have even arrived in classrooms, Premier Jason Kenny has made them a moot point, added Schilling.
“The school community expects that the government will make decisions after carefully considering expert scientific advice.” But what happened this week was not carefully considered, he added.
“Once again, the government has made a decision without consulting educational stakeholders, including the (ATA) and school boards.”
Schilling believes the latest sharp turn in government pandemic policy will leave school boards in a precarious position as they are obliged to protect the health and safety of their staff and students.
While the provincial health officials has repeatedly stated that the spread in schools reflects that in the community, Premier Jason Kenney is eliminating masking in schools without evidence that transmission has significantly waned in the province.
“What will be so different next week to this week?” he questioned.
On Tuesday, Kenney announced that the path back to normal will include no masking of children under the age of 12 in any setting. and the cancelling all mask rules in schools starting Monday.
“Given the very low threat that COVID-19 poses to the health of children, it is no longer justifiable after two long years to continue to disrupt and restrict the normal lives of kids,” he stated.
On late Wednesday afternoon, in a video on Facebook, Kenney said kids are not “unsafe” and they must come first.
He said for two years, kids have been paying an unfair share of the burden as the province has tried to protect Alberta’s health system.
“That’s why the province’s back to normal plan we have prioritized lifting all public health measures that are affecting children including mask wearing.
“ATA believes this is creating an unsafe workplace for teachers, imagine that, they think that kids who are not wearing masks are somehow unsafe. It’s looking at children not as kids, but as vectors of viral transmission, and this is coming from teachers who are almost entirely triple vaccinated, who will continue to wear masks themselves.
“Our message to the Alberta Teachers’ union is simple, let’s let kids be kids. After two long years of this, don’t you dare treat kids as though they’re unsafe. We need to get life back to normal for kids starting right now.”
Schilling believes viral spread among teachers is not getting enough attention at a time when substitutes are in short supply. As he feels this is causing anxiety and stress among educators, he said the ATA will look at “all avenues,” including legal ones, to make sure teachers are working in a healthy and safe environment.
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