Education Minister Adriana LaGrange won’t be delaying opening of schools this fall as suggested by the Alberta Teachers Association earlier this week. (Photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)

School re-entry date remains unchanged: Education Minister

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange isn’t granting a week’s delay for schools to reopen, but leaving it up to the school boards to make that decision for themselves.

Alberta Teachers’ Association earlier this week suggested a delay in opening schools until after Labour Day.

On Wednesday, ATA president Jason Schilling met with LaGrange to discuss concerns regarding the province’s school re-entry plan.

The ATA wanted a “total delay” of students so schools can better prepare for the arrival of students.

On Friday, LaGrange released a statement, saying the school re-entry plan, as written, already provides school boards with the the ability to delay or stagger school start dates should they decide that is in their best local interest.

“The school re-entry plan already provides local school authorities with the autonomy and flexibility to ensure local needs are met and to prepare schools for a safe re-entry,” she said in the release, after having follow-up discussions with the Alberta School Boards Association and the College of Alberta School Superintendents.

Since the meeting with ATA president Jason Schilling, LaGrange had the chance to review the planned re-entry dates for school across the province.

“And I see that time is clearly available to allow teachers to prepare for re-entry before their students arrive.”

She said these timelines were created by school boards who continue to follow the expert medical advice of Alberta’s chief medical officer of health.

“I would like to reinforce that I continue to support school boards using this flexibility to adjust their plans if necessary in the coming days as they make preparations for a safe return to school.

Schilling said he will continue to “hear and press forward” concerns of teachers.

“Teachers want to return to school, but they want to ensure that school is a safe place for themselves and the students they care for. Time is rapidly running out to see this happen,” Schilling said in a statement Friday afternoon.

School boards value and insist on their autonomy, Schilling added.

“They have willingly assumed responsibility for school start-up and apparently believe that all necessary arrangements and resources are in place,” he said.

“The minister in her statement today reiterated that school boards have the freedom to manage restart as they see fit. Clearly, parents and members of the public who have concerns about schooling during the pandemic will now need to hold their elected school board trustees accountable for the consequences.”

Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) said LaGrange continues to put school children and workers at risk with her determination not to seek or listen to advice from front-line experts.

“The minister had a chance to talk to workers, including the AUPE and other union members who will do the cleaning that keeps our kids safe, but chose to ignore us – again,” says Bonnie Gostola, vice-president of AUPE, which represents more than 95,000 workers.

Last week, B.C., announced students there would be returning to schools Sept. 10 – two days later than originally planned.

The province announced the delay will help give administrators and teachers more time to prepare amid the ongoing pandemic.

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