Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley says students have been sent home at least four times now with almost no notice, and many more times at some schools. This throws families into chaos every time. (File photo by The Canadian Press)

Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley says students have been sent home at least four times now with almost no notice, and many more times at some schools. This throws families into chaos every time. (File photo by The Canadian Press)

NDP presents plan to make schools safer amid Omicron spread

Plan addresses staffing challenges and mitigating the risk of in-school transmission

Alberta’s NDP has proposed new measures to ensure students are safe and protected when they return to the classroom as Omicron continues to spread.

The NDP said last week Education Minister Adriana LaGrange postponed students return to class until Jan. 10, but did not provide a plan for addressing staffing challenges or mitigating the risk of in-school transmission.

“Students have been sent home at least four times now with almost no notice, and many more times at some schools. This throws families into chaos every time,” said NDP Leader Rachel Notley.

“In order to reopen Alberta schools next week and keep them open safely through the school year, the government must do more than dump the problem onto school districts and hope for the best. We need action.”

Last week, LaGrange said the province will provide another update with further details this week.

The NDP propose greater public reporting, new mental health supports and increased focus on mitigating airborne spread of COVID-19 by installing High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) purifiers, and monitoring airflow through the use of carbon-dioxide detectors.

“The UCP’s record on school safety is very poor but we are determined to continue to propose steps that will keep students, staff and families safe, especially now as Omicron is proving to spread very aggressively,” said NDP education critic Sarah Hoffman.

Brandi Rai, president of the Alberta School Councils’ Association, said that if more support is provided to school boards, schools will be better able to support and maintain in-person learning.

“Well-funded education systems and health-care systems would mean that irrespective of the wave, irrespective of the variant, our systems would be stabilized and secure with sustainable processes so that our children can continue with in-person learning, safely, and our communities can continue to flourish,” Rai said.

The NDP’s six-point plan includes the following measures:

• Public reporting of the infection and absentee rate of school staff, providing Albertans with a picture as to whether schools will be forced to close again due to a lack of staff.
• Immediate funding to move substitute teachers onto contract for the remainder of the school year to help backfill staffing levels and to hire additional substitute teachers where possible.
• Provide N95 masks for staff and students. Medical professionals continue to point out that N95 masks offer the best protection against airborne spread of COVID-19.
• Install HEPA filters — or high efficiency particulate air filters — in schools to reduce the risk in confined spaces, as well as carbon dioxide detectors to measure how effectively a school’s ventilation system is refreshing the air in a classroom.
• Hire mental health counsellors for every school to support students dealing with stress, isolation, and uncertainty that impacts their learning.
• Create an Alberta Learn-at-Home fund to support families when their kids are forced to stay home. The fund would provide $500 per student and $750 per student with complex needs.



News tips

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

COVID-19ndpSchools