School out for summer in Edmonton, attention turns to fall

A drive-by parade at Grandin Elementary School gave staff, students and parents a chance to say goodbye. Wes Rosa / Global News

There was an emotional farewell to the school year at Grandin Elementary School in downtown Edmonton on Friday.

A drive-by parade gave staff, students and parents a chance to say goodbye.

“[It’s] so special for us to celebrate — it’s been a really long three months,” principal Lorelei Hironaka said, holding back tears.
“The teachers and the [educational assistants] and the custodians — and especially children and their families — have worked so hard for three months, I’m so proud of them.”
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Hironaka is retiring after this school year.

Grade 1 teacher Raquel Aviles said it’s “been a unique year.”

“Finally we could say goodbye properly… to our students,” Aviles said.

Parents took the opportunity to show their appreciation.

“The blood, sweat and tears that has gone into finishing off this year has been unbelievable,” said Sara Glass, who has three kids that go to Grandin.

As staff and families head into summer break, attention turns to next school year, and uncertainty.

“Cross that bridge when we get there and hopefully they are all making decisions that will keep everyone safe for fall,” Glass said.

Part of that safety includes making sure schools are clean.

The province will announce Aug. 1 what the next school year could look like.

In May, the province laid out three scenarios:

  1. Schools open and operating under mostly normal conditions.
  2. In-school classes partially resumed due to additional health requirements.
  3. Students stay home and continue to learn online.

Trisha Estabrooks, the board chair for the Edmonton Public School Division, said preparing for all three scenarios at once is a huge task.

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She said schools are facing new and unexpected costs, like more rigid cleaning procedures in every building.

“Our schools are clean to begin with, but there’s going to need to be more cleaning done on a more regular basis,” Estabrooks said.

“There’s some of those extra supplies — likely extra staffing as well that will need to be factored in.”

Estabrooks said the EPSB has reserves that could pay for extra costs.

“The question though in my mind is: should be we paying our reserves?” she asked.

“That cost is going to be in the millions of dollars, so still waiting to get a better sense of what that final bill might be, especially if we consider this might go on for another full year.”

In a virtual town hall Thursday evening, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange noted the province committed $250 million in stimulus funding for schools, and some are using that to help pay for sanitary and cleaning equipment.

“Some school authorities have chosen to use their accelerated infrastructure, maintenance and renewal funding for sanitary and cleaning equipment, however, funding for cleaning supplies will continue to come from their regular operational budgets,” said Colin Aitchison, the press secretary for the education minister.

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Regardless what happens in the fall, teachers and families are staying confident.

“If we can make this… next year we can do it,” Aviles said.

“If these last three months have taught us anything, it’s that we have adapted in ways we never imagined,” Glass said.

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