The UCP has passed the responsibility to control COVID-19 onto school boards and parents while the province sits on $600 million unspent in last year’s education budget, says Alberta’s NDP.
“School districts are left to fend for themselves,” said NDP education critic Sarah Hoffman.
“It will be up to school boards to implement masking protocols, to find resources for the added cleaning and PPE, and when Jason Kenney tears down testing, tracing, and isolating on September 27, schools will no longer have any data to make decisions about student safety.”
The NDP said the new standard for a reportable outbreak in schools will be 10 per cent absenteeism among students. Some schools in Calgary and Edmonton have populations upwards of 2,000 pupils, meaning over 200 students could be home with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 before any alerts are triggered.
The province’s daily checklist for those under 18 years of age has also been reduced, no longer asking if a student has travelled internationally or been exposed to a person with COVID-19 in the last 14 days.
“This follows the pattern from the last eighteen months of Jason Kenney acting last and acting least when it comes to Albertans’ safety. The Kenney plan gambles with kids and education workers’ health,” Hoffman said.
The NDP propose several improvements to the back-to-school plan, including:
• Restore reporting parameters for schools so parents are informed when COVID-19 cases enter the classroom.
• Restore daily checklist for those under 18 to previous version.
• Ensure all schools have access to rapid tests, especially K-6 classes.
• Place a mental health professional in each school.
Hoffman said having a dedicated person to help students make it through what the new school year has in store will help ensure their recovery from the pandemic.
“This is going to be a catch-up year for everyone. We’re asking students and all school staff to work at a higher level. Students need mental health support to make that happen.”