Calgary parents still have questions after the release of the Calgary Board of Education’s re-entry plan on Thursday.
One of the main concerns being raised is how schools will be able to accommodate social distancing.
“I don’t know how they’re going to keep their distance,” Calgary parent Aaron Patrick said Thursday. “I just feel that the teachers aren’t equipped enough to handle what’s going to happen.”
In its re-entry plan, the CBE said there will be two meters between desks and if that’s not possible students should be arranged so they aren’t facing each other.
“Physical distancing is not the only measure that is identified throughout the guidelines provided by Alberta education. At every single turn we cannot rely solely on one measure as the solution,” said Supt. of school improvement Joanne Pitman.
Other parts of the solution include hand washing, sanitizing and wearing masks. Face masks are only recommended and are not mandatory.
Students will only have to wear one if they get sick and that point they’ll be sent to a supervised infirmary space.
If students or staff are sick with a cold, the flu or COVID-19-like symptoms they must stay home and either isolate for 10 days following onset of symptoms or until symptoms resolve, whichever is longer.
“As is, parents knowingly send their kids to school sick. Who knows, some parents may send their kids sick regardless,” Patrick said.
When it comes to masks, the CBE said they are just going with the provincial recommendations.
“The situation is fluid and we are not the health experts. We rely on the recommendation that we receive,” chief Supt. of schools Christopher Usih said.
The president of the Alberta Teachers Association said the re-entry plan still leaves him with questions about safety and how all the extra measures will be funded.
“We know that Calgary has had a well documented class-size issue before the pandemic so there are a lot of questions about how we will make social distancing work in classrooms that are in the 30s or 40s.,” Jason Schilling said.
“I know the teachers have a lot of questions about that and I know the plan gets specific about desk placement inside classrooms so that will have to be looked at to see if that is feasible — and whether or not we need to look at other creative ways to make sure we can ensure that students and teachers are safe in their classrooms,” Schilling said.
The CBE is offering online learning for students in Grades 1-12 for this school year for families who aren’t comfortable going back to in-person classes.
But it comes with a warning — it requires a significant commitment from students and parents and it won’t offer the same supports as in-person learning.
“I am missing seeing my friends all day which is kind of sad. I feel like it would be fine staying home but I would rather go back to school,” Calgary grade 9 student Tessa Greenwood said.
“I think it’s definitely a good option in terms of parents who can afford it and feels more comfortable having your kids at home or they have that opportunity to do homeschooling.”
“I think the other option of having kids go into schools is a good option as well. There are pros and cons to both,” parent Jessica Kenyon said.