UCP government faces continued pressure over Alberta school re-entry plan

Click to play video: 'Class sizes top concerns regarding Alberta’s school re-entry plan' Class sizes top concerns regarding Alberta’s school re-entry plan
WATCH ABOVE: We're now less than two weeks away from kids going back to class in Alberta, and pressure is mounting on the UCP government to beef up it's re-entry plan. Ss provincial affairs reporter Tom Vernon explains, class sizes still top the list of concerns. – Aug 18, 2020

There are continued calls for Alberta Education Minister Adriana LaGrange to hire more teachers, find more classroom space and press pause on student re-entry into the classroom.

This comes as Saskatchewan joins British Columbia is delaying the return to school by a few days to allow teachers and other school staff into their classrooms and get a handle on exactly what the conditions are.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan provides details of additional $40M into Safe Schools Plan, delayed start

“I would rather be over prepared than under prepared as we start the new school year,” Alberta Teachers Association President Jason Schilling told Global News.

Schilling is scheduled to sit down with LaGrange later this week to discuss the re-entry plan. Teachers still have several questions about the public health plan for their classrooms and want to make sure funding will be in place for the duration of the pandemic.

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“We’ve got one chance to get this right and we need to take the time we need to ensure it happens correctly.”

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READ MORE: Alberta Teachers’ Association president meeting with education minister over ‘serious problems’ with school re-entry plan

It’s a point the president of the Pediatric Section of the Alberta Medical Association agrees with.

“I think most of us would say we think we could do better,” said Dr. Michelle Bailey, a Calgary-based pediatrician.

Bailey says the government should invest in more staff, particularly for large junior and senior high schools where many parents and teachers are worried larger class sizes will limit the ability for social distancing.

“How do you do this if most of the classes in your school are [a] crowded, 30-plus situation? Is that the best we can do as a province?”

LaGrange was unavailable for comment Monday. The government remains comfortable with the measures it is recommending.

Click to play video: 'Masks mandatory in all K-12 Calgary public and Catholic schools' Masks mandatory in all K-12 Calgary public and Catholic schools
Masks mandatory in all K-12 Calgary public and Catholic schools – Aug 14, 2020

“We continue to follow the expert medical advice of our Chief Medical Officer of Health, who approved our school re-entry plan,” government spokesperson Ted Bauer said in a statement.

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“We will continue to work with Dr. Hinshaw and our education system and will make adjustments as necessary.”

The province has mandated masks be worn in all common areas for students in Grade 4 and above, but not necessarily inside classrooms as long as they’re all sitting in their seats and facing forward. There’s also no cap on class sizes.

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

School boards across the province have the latitude to come up with their own policies, and many, like Edmonton Public Schools, have mandated masks for all ages in all situations.

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