The COVID-19 pandemic has “created significant fiscal uncertainty” for the upcoming school year, says the chair of Red Deer Public Schools’ board of trustees.
“The provincial government has provided no money to specifically address COVID-19, and the costs will likely be significant,” said Nicole Buchanan.
“As it stands, we need to cover those expenses within our existing budget, which is already stretched, given the new provincial funding framework. We are going to be tracking those numbers to understand the full cost and implications and will report those to our community.
“This is a significant concern of the board and school jurisdictions across the province, not only this year, but the impact it will have on our future as well.”
The Red Deer Public Schools board met with senior administration this week to review plans for back to school, following the July 21 announcement by the provincial government that students will be back to school under near-normal conditions with health guidelines in place.
Buchanan says while parents and staff are eager to get back to school, there are still many questions regarding everyone’s health and safety.
“That’s why we met: to get the assurance that we are doing all that we can. We also know the pandemic is dynamic and that we are going to keep our plans current and up to date as the situation evolves,” said Buchanan.
Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, and Alberta Education have developed a number of guidelines under which schools will need to operate in the fall, which Red Deer Public will follow.
Next Friday, the division will be emailing parents more information on back-to-school procedures.
“Included in that will be a video outlining the measures we are taking to prepare our schools. We will have complete information on our website outlining plans we have for re-entry.
“We will also be surveying our parents to confirm their intentions for students coming back to school, so we can plan accordingly,” said Buchanan.
Superintendent of schools Chad Erickson says the best learning takes place in the classroom.
“And we are excited to get back to regular teaching and learning,” said Erickson.
“Having said that, we need to do all that we can to address the many issues affecting schools during the pandemic. Throughout the year, we will continually monitor situations and adapt as needed to ensure our students and staff are healthy and well.”