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Alberta government announces students heading back to classes in September

Students across Alberta will be returning to classrooms in September.

The provincial government announced their plans for a return to the school year which they say will resume operations at near normal with added health measures, known as scenario 1.

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange says the provincial government is determined to do everything they can to safely return students, teachers and staff to school.

“I appreciate the input and support of school authorities across the province, as well as our education partners, in developing and refining our school re-entry plan. We are providing clear and detailed guidelines and a re-entry tool kit so everyone can do their part and prepare for a safe return to school.”

The re-entry tool kit will prepare parents and students for what to expect in the new school year. It includes videos explaining some of the health measures, a guide for parents, frequently asked questions, school posters, a self-screening questionnaire in multiple languages and links to health guidelines.

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LaGrange laid out three scenarios in which classes would continue in the fall:

  • (1) In-school classes resume (near normal operations with health measures)
  • (2) In-school classes partially resume with additional health measures, such as limit classroom sizes
  • (3) At home learning continues

Under scenario 1, Alberta schools will implement a number of public health measures including frequent cleaning, hand sanitizing stations at entrances and classrooms, grouping student cohorts and staggering start times, recesses and lunches. There will also be no size limit to classes in this scenario.

Students, parents and visitors will also have to complete a self-screening questionnaire before entering the school. Physical distancing plans will vary from school-to-school.

Additional public health measures may be established ahead of September based on the advice of the chief medical officer of health along with the school division.

COVID-19 cases at school

If a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, a public health team will investigate to determine when symptoms developed and support the school in minimizing the risk of transmission.

Each case will be addressed on its own and in most cases the group of students and staff who came in close contact will be required to self-isolate for 14 days. Parents will be notified if a case is confirmed at the school and public health officials will contact those who were in close contact with the person.

COVID-19 outbreaks in schools

If there is an outbreak in the community or school, health officials will work with Alberta Education and school authorities to make any decision to transition to a different learning scenario. Schools may transition to different scenarios based on multiple factors including number of cases in the community or school and the risk of ongoing transmission.

“There will be protocols that they’ll have to go through and will have to follow what Dr. Hinshaw says on that case. That will be tracked and dealt with at the time,” says Vermilion-Lloydminster-Wainwright MLA Garth Rowswell.

Additional school funding

The province is also providing additional funding to divisions this school year. Under the new funding model, Buffalo Trail School Division is expected to receive $48,959,147 for the year which is an increase from $48,090,000 in the previous year.

LPSD is expected to receive $23,151,522 from the province while LCSD will receive $16,296,365. Last year, the numbers were at $22,838,000 and $16,071,000 respectively.

Rowswell adds they may also more funding for accelerated capital maintenance and renewal projects to support projects that will minimize the risks of spreading COVID-19 in schools.

“There’s been $15 million allocated from that to go towards hands-free sinks, automatic toilets, automatic doors, touchless soap and paper towel and water bottle filling stations instead of fountains.”

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