Ensuring students take steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is a challenge for schools across the country, says the president of the Alberta Teachers’ Association.
Earlier this week, a crowd of students was photographed mingling during a break outside Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School. It’s unclear how many students wore masks.
While the member of the public who took the photo was concerned by what he saw, many Advocate readers who commented online on the story sided with students.
“Good for them, I’m glad they find time to enjoy their time,” one woman posted on Facebook.
But teacher president Jason Schilling said mingling among students is one of the stresses teachers face.
“Ideally, if they stay in the cohort, then you know everybody in that cohort is following the same rules. But when classes are dismissed and they go for lunch, kids are kids.
“They’re going to go out and do what kids do and they break that cohort model,” Schilling said.
“It’s a difficulty we see in Alberta. When I talk with presidents across Canada, that cohorting model concern is one that is across the country as well.”
He said for the most part, students have been following the rules inside schools.
“As I talk to teachers across the province, they’ve had fairly good compliance around masking in school. They are able to build in mask breaks, if they can.”
He said there will always be some students who don’t want to follow the rules, whether it’s about cellphones, hats, or masks, but for the most part, students are happy to be back at school with their friends and teachers.
But as infection grows in the community, more schools will have cases, and more teachers and students will have to self-isolate, said Schilling.
Parents have to talk to their children about maintaining cohorts, and the community also has a role to play through consistent messaging on issues such as masks, he said.
“A lot of communities are passing their own bylaws in the absence of guidance from the province.”
This week, Red Deer was added to the Alberta Health watch list due to the growing number of COVID cases. So far, the city does not require masks to be worn in public.