High school students got some welcome news from Premier Jason Kenney this week.
In an 80-minute Facebook Live question and answer session Kenney and Minister of Education Adrianna LaGrange, addressed a number of topics related to the new K-6 curriculum but also ventured into other school-related issues.
Kenney said he was hopeful that later this spring, schools would be able to move forward with graduation ceremonies, provided they are outdoors.
“It’s going to depend on the timing… we are hopeful, based on the progress of the vaccination program that we hope by in the month of June we will have essentially delivered first doses of the covid-19 vaccine to all adults over the age of 18 in Alberta who want to be inoculated,” he said.
“That will certainly give us a strong level of initial protection. That’s why we are optimistic that we will be able to go ahead with outdoor events in the late spring and into the summer, within certain parameters. We know high schools need those parameters and a definitive answer to those questions.”
LaGrange added that ultimately decisions on graduations will be left up to school boards, but echoed Kenney’s hopeful message.
“I know they are very keen to ensure that graduations – which is such a critical part of the educational journey is celebrated. School divisions are trying their best and being creative, as they were last year,” LaGrange said.
The premier also addressed the potential for schools to transition to full online learning in the wake of rising COVID-19 cases across the province.
He said the UCP government has made it a priority to keep kids in school and remains hopeful they can stay in classrooms for the remainder of the school year.
“We’ve learned enough after a year of Covid to never say never. We can’t predict entirely what the future may hold for out of control, exponential growth and viral spread, driven by the more contagious and lethal variants… these are unknowns that we all have to deal with as they come,” Kenney said.
“Based on where we are at now, we are confident about our ability to maintain the continued safe operation of schools for in-class instruction.”
Kenney did add that there is some concerning data emerging about potential transmission as school-age children return to recreational activities.
“We have seen some worrisome signs of growing viral transmission among school-age children in Alberta and (Alberta chief medical officer of health) Dr. (Deena) Hinshaw believes that is likely linked to the recent relaxation of extracurricular activities, such as sports,” he said.
“It clearly was not happening through in-classroom instruction, which is very structured. But has been accelerated by some of those athletic activities.”