CALGARY — The Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) is voicing concerns about the lack of provisions to protect students and staff from COVID-19 in the upcoming school year.
Because of these concerns, the ATA has released a report outlining nine recommendations on what they say are the basic measures necessary for a positive, safe return to school.
ATA president Jason Schilling expressed concern about the safety of students and teachers as they return to the classroom.
“To wait this long within the summer to get guidelines from the government that are specific about what they see schools doing this fall is causing some anxiety amongst some of our members.”
The ATA warned that the elimination of COVID-19 testing, tracing and isolation protocols will leave students, parents and staff working blind to the risks that could exist in classrooms.
“That was information schools were using in order to help mitigate COVID-19 within their schools,” says Schilling.
Thursday, CTV News learned the province met to discuss the possibility of postponing the end of pandemic protocols, which were scheduled to go into effect Aug. 16.
The ATA report discusses continuing health measures in schools such as masks, social distance, and small cohorts.
“Things that were successful are things that we should be carrying forward,” Schilling said.
Alberta Education released the school year plan on June 30. Schilling said there was no dialogue between the ATA and the government in the month of June.
Schilling added that they have not heard from the Ministry of Education since the release of the school year plan.
In a statement from the Ministry of Education, press secretary Nicole Sparrow said, “in June, school divisions received a detailed plan that includes contingency scenarios for continuing student learning if there is a significant change in the COVID-19 situation.”
“We communicated to boards that a confirmation of this plan would be given prior to the beginning of the regular school year.”
Sparrow added, “An additional health guidance document to support return to schools is being finalized and will be released tomorrow.”
Schilling said the ATA were not properly consulted on the 2021-2022 school year plan.
“We had regular meetings throughout last year,” said Schilling.
“We wrapped up in May and we have not sat down with government since then.”
Schilling said the ATA would like to meet with government twice a month.
“We need to see what their plan is, and there might be some alignment with their plan and what our expectations are.”
On Aug. 13, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, and Minister of Education will provide an update on back-to-school guidance for health measures in schools.
Sparrow added, “The health guidance will be based on the advice of Dr. Hinshaw and her team of medical experts.
“Alberta Education will work closely with education partners, including the teachers’ union on the implementation of this health guidance.”