Mask wearing in classrooms continues to be a divisive issue for Red Deer Public School parents and staff, a public engagement process has revealed.
What rules will be in place this fall will become known on Thursday, when Red Deer Public School officials are planning to release their safe school re-entry plan.
It should be on the district’s website by about noon, and parents of public school students will also be emailed, said the district’s community relations director Bruce Buruma.
The Board of Trustees have already reviewed the district’s Re-Entry, Recovery and Resurgence Plan in a three-hour meeting, and intend to finalize their decision on school re-entry on Thursday morning at a Back to School Retreat, Buruma added.
The re-entry plan will focus on health guidelines, including academic supports to close learning gaps due to the pandemic, and mental health supports.
Last week, the Alberta Government announced its 2021/2022 School Year Plan Update, which opened up health restrictions. Red Deer Public initiated two extensive public engagement processes — one with staff and one with parents — and nearly 2,000 perspectives were shared regarding a safe return to school.
Common priorities put forward were: Quality teaching and learning, staying home when sick, and enhanced cleaning.
But diverse perspectives were expressed on masking, states a release from the school district.
“Over the past five days, we have heard from our parents and staff through our engagement process, which allowed us an opportunity to hear diverse opinions and perspectives regarding a safe return to school,” said Nicole Buchanan, the school board chair.
Buchanan added the board is influenced by recommendations by the chief medical officer of health and Alberta Education, “as well as all of our experiences over the last 18 months.”
“While these are challenging decisions for the Board, our focus continues to be on what is best for teaching and learning for our students and staff.”
Decisions will be based on current circumstances — but the school division will be responsive to changes as the school year progresses, said Buchanan.
“Ultimately, we are preparing and looking forward to welcoming our students and staff back to school on Sept. 1 for what we expect will be a great year of teaching and learning.”