Classes will resume prior to Labour Day, as planned, at Red Deer public and Catholic schools.
The Alberta Teachers’ Association had been pushing for school to be delayed a week to better prepare for students.
On Friday, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange announced she would not mandate that all schools across the province delay classes, but said that school boards could still choose to delay or stagger classes depending on local needs.
Red Deer Public Schools continues to get ready for a Sept. 1 start to classes, which will be staggered during the first week, so there will only be 50 per cent of students in schools at any time.
Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools is also sticking with a staggered entry starting Aug. 31.
Bruce Buruma, director of community relations with Red Deer public, said the minister can say that school boards have the ability to push back the start date, but in reality, schools need to provide the required instructional hours.
He said schools must function at “near normal” operations, which means it will be pretty much like last year, before the pandemic struck.
“We’ve been mandated by the government it’s near normal, so we have to do our plans and processes under those conditions. That is something that is provincewide and dictated by the government,” Buruma said.
So when families ask about reducing class sizes or alternating school days, that’s not possible, said Buruma. If social distancing can’t be achieved, face masks will be required.
“We’re going to do the best that we possibly can. Is it going to be easy? No. This has been really challenging work. But we’re going in confident that we’re doing everything that we are able to do, given the constraints.”
Buruma said Red Deer public is still waiting for the face masks and hand sanitizer promised by the province for students and staff.
“We need to get that this week; otherwise, that will create problems.”
He said staggering classes for the first week will allow students to get used to COVID-19 routines and reduce the flow of students through schools.
Kathleen Finnigan, acting superintendent of schools for Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools, agreed that the staggered entry approach will allow students to experience the changes in their school with less congestion.
— with files from The Canadian Press