The provincial government has taken some of the guesswork out of going back to school, with its announcement about mandatory mask wearing for older students.
But Red Deer’s school districts are still waiting to see how many parents will be sending their kids back into the classroom during the pandemic.
On Friday, public school students will be receiving a so-called playbook of rules to help students stay safe while learning in the classroom. Parents will also be asked to state their intention of whether they will send their children back for in-person classes.
Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools will also be emailing a parental survey out on Friday, asking to hear back by Aug. 14 whether their children will be coming back to classes this fall.
Acting superintendent Kathleen Finnigan said it’s important to know class sizes, as well as how many students will be learning at home.
Although the Catholic school district has hired staff on the assumption that classes will resume as usual, Finnigan acknowledged that an online option might have to be put into place if a large number of students are going to keep learning at home.
But she added, “We are missing our students and they are missing us. Our hope is to return to as normal conditions as possible.”
Finnigan joined Red Deer Public School Board chair Nicole Buchanan in praising the “clarity” around Education Minister Adriana LaGrange’s Tuesday announcement.
LaGrange made mask wearing mandatory for grade 4 to 12 students and optional for kindergarten to Grade 3 pupils.
LaGrange is allowing for some discretion — for instance, she said while masks must be worn on buses and in common areas, they can be taken off when students are all facing the front of the classroom and are not face to face.
Finnigan believes these guidelines are “very clear” and will be doable, as long as everyone follows them.
Schools will depend on families to get on board and build protocols around mask wearing into their children’s everyday routines, said Finnigan. This includes coming to school daily with a clean face covering.
Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools also expressed gratitude for the province promising to provide all Alberta students with two reusable masks, and to cover the additional cost of extra in-school sanitation.