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Coronavirus: Alberta NDP unveils alternative return-to-school plan

Alberta's NDP unveiled it's own plan to safely get students and teachers back to school in September. The opposition party is recommending class size limits and more funding for teachers. CREDIT: Facebook Live

Two days after Education Minister Adriana LaGrange announced the reopening plans for K-12 schools in the province, Alberta’s Opposition party released its own plan to get students back to school.

On Thursday, the NDP unveiled a 19-page plan online that outlines 15 recommendations.

The focus is on class sizes and staffing, personal protective equipment, busing, mental health, infrastructure and transparency.

Read more: Alberta K-12 students to head back to classroom this fall

The first recommendation asks for class sizes to be capped at 15 students and for the province to ensure enough teachers are hired to make this feasible.

In a Facebook live on Thursday evening, NDP Education Critic Sarah Hoffman acknowledged this would mean a large increase to the education budget.

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“[The NDP’s] total cost of the proposal is just over $1 billion,” she said. “And that is a lot of money, but the cost of doing nothing is far greater. I think our kids are worth it.”

Hoffman said investing more into the return-to-school program would also help Alberta’s economy.

“I think the best thing you can do for business is to keep a safe education system so that people can keep working,” she said.

Read more: Educators, parents react to Alberta decision to send K-12 students back to classrooms in fall

The NDP also called for the government to reverse the cuts that saw 20,000 support staff laid off in March.

Hoffman said the government will need those staff if the 2020-21 school year can go ahead safely.

“[School boards] need more money… to increase the custodial cleaning of the school,” she said. “I know that they’re going to do what they can within the budget they have, but it is woefully underfunded right now.”
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Some of the other recommendations include:

  • limiting parent and visitor admission to schools
  • a grant for school boards to help ensure physical distancing on school buses
  • working with municipal governments to find public spaces in addition to schools for the use of school authorities
  • asking the chief medical officer of health to publicly release her recommendations to the government

Read more: Coronavirus: Should masks be mandatory Alberta schools?

UCP government response

In a statement to Global News, a spokesperson for Alberta’s education minister said the NDP has ignored and discredited the medical advice from Dr. Deena Hinshaw.

“While [the NDP] continue to pedal (SIC) fear and anxiety with an uncosted, guestimate-ridden non-plan, our comprehensive school re-entry plan has support from our superintendents and has been carefully crafted with the approval of Dr. Deena Hinshaw,” Colin Aitchison said.

He said the government is sticking with the plan laid out on Tuesday, but added there could be changes made as the school year approaches.

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“We will continue to monitor the situation, and additional public health measures may be established prior to September on the advice of [the chief medical officer of health].

Watch below: Some Global News videos about the Alberta government’s plan to get students back to school in the fall.

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