Red Deer Public Schools says it appreciated the government addressing some of the COVID-19 concerns and uncertainty in the provincial back-to-school plan.
On Friday the province announced that COVID-19 measures set to expire next week would remain in place for an additional six weeks until Sept. 27.
“We, along with families and staff have been anxiously waiting, given both the easing of restrictions and increased concerns of growing COVID cases,” said school board chair Nicole Buchanan in a statement.
“The extension of restrictions and monitoring the dynamic situation is welcomed and important.”
Those province-wide health restrictions include:
• Continued daily health screening.
• Individuals who are ill, or have positive results, must stay home.
• Testing will still be available; positive cases must isolate.
• Use of masks is required in school buses; those choosing to use masks elsewhere will be supported.
• Vaccinations, for those eligible, are encouraged to mitigate risks.
• School jurisdictions have the authority to require additional measures based on local conditions.
Buchanan said this information, as well as data gathered from an engagement process with families and staff, will help shape the district’s re-entry plan which is expected to be released Aug. 18.
“We have seen diverse opinions and perspectives across the community and through our current engagement process. These are challenging and difficult decisions, but we will continue to be focused on what is best for teaching and learning with our staff and students. We will also be responsive, where needed, as the school year proceeds,” Buchanan said.
Kurt Sacher, superintendent with Chinook’s Edge School Division, appreciated getting the update in mid-August when government said it would be available.
“It gives us enough time to get a message out to our parents before schools open on Aug. 26. We have what we need to move forward. Operationally we think we’re set up for success,” Sacher said.
He said just like parents, the division wants to keep students safe.
“We want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to keep them safe, and we rely on the expertise of Alberta Health to guide us moving through situations such as this.”
Alberta Teachers’ Association said the provincial plan has a number of gaps, and protocols should continue until a significant majority of students have been fully vaccinated.
“We are concerned about the use of a 10 per cent threshold of absenteeism for bringing in enhanced measures. Waiting until 200 students in a large city high school have become infected at the same time is a recipe for disaster that could easily be avoided with a lower threshold,” the ATA said in a statement.
Support Our Students Alberta congratulated those who have been protesting the elimination of the measures that were to set to expire on Aug. 16.
“While this is a six-week extension, we know that provincial government still has not done enough to mitigate risks in schools. They are still lifting protocols such as masking, distancing and cohorting in schools and leaving it up to local boards to decide while we’re clearly entering the Delta wave,” said Support Our Students in a statement.