Thousands of Albertans to rally for increased funding, wider safety supports for schools

CALGARY — Protests will be held outside United Conservative Party MLA offices across the province Friday to voice concerns with the province’s back to school plan.

In total, 27 rallies will take place calling on the province to take additional steps to ensure the safety of school staff and students.

Among the seven protests planned for Calgary is one outside of Health Minister Tyler Shandro’s office in Calgary-Acadia.

Some Calgary parents say they are most worried about maintaining physical distancing in schools at a time when class sizes are some of the largest they’ve ever been with upward of 30 to 40 students in some cases. Others express concern over whether schools will stay clean, properly ventilated and sanitized throughout the school year. 

The Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) shares those values and met with Education Minister Adriana LaGrange this week. That group is calling for the start of the school year to be delayed until after Labour Day so teachers can better prepare themselves and gain more confidence with the new practices. 

The ATA has also asked for better plans to reduce class sizes, screen and test students, and support substitute teachers. 

The provincial government says it remains open to change, but maintains that the province’s school re-entry plan received approval from health officials including Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health. 

Hinshaw says her plan is based on sound evidence that younger children are less like to infect others. She notes that it’s reasonable to expect some COVID-19 cases in schools, but her plan takes a balanced approach from what’s been working and not working in different countries across the world. 

“I have decided that the value of in-school learning outweighs the risk to my family,” Hinshaw said. 

“That’s why I’m sending my children back to school in September, but I want to be clear there is no wrong decision about a return to in-school or online learning. Each parent is uniquely positioned to make the best decision for their family.”

The deadline for online enrolment for students in the Calgary Catholic School District is at 11:59:59 p.m. on Friday and requires a one year commitment to virtual learning. 

The Calgary Board of Education has set its online enrolment deadline for Monday, but students will be permitted to opt out of virtual learning in February.

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