COVID-19: Some Edmonton teachers to work from home following new provincial measure

An empty classroom is shown in this file photo from The Canadian Press.
An empty classroom is shown in this file photo from The Canadian Press. Carlos Osorio / The Canadian Press

Alberta school boards are still working out the details for junior and high school teachers when it comes to the province’s new work-from-home measure.

The measure, announced by the province earlier this week, states working from home is mandatory unless a physical presence is required for operational effectiveness.

READ MORE: Alberta’s new COVID-19 measures ban in-person dining, outdoor gatherings; retail to remain open

Previously, direction from Alberta Education stated junior and high school teachers were still expected to remain in their classrooms to teach, even as those students shifted to online learning last month and as the province encouraged, but did not require, Albertans to work from home.

READ MORE: Alberta enacts 2nd COVID-19 state of public health emergency. Here’s what it means

Late Wednesday, one day after the mandatory work-from-home measure was announced, Alberta Education spokesperson Nicole Sparrow told Global News that local school authorities were responsible for “decisions relating to staff continuing to work at school or work from home.”

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In response, Edmonton Catholic Schools told Global News that junior and high school teachers from Edmonton Catholic Schools will be allowed to work from home starting Monday.

“All staff who can work from home are asked to do so,” spokesperson Lori Nagy said.

READ MORE: Alberta students with disabilities exempt from online learning

Anna Batchelor, a spokesperson for Edmonton Public Schools, said the division operates under a site-based decision making model.

“Principals have been asked to consider which school staff need to be in the building to support school operations, and are working with their staff to transition to working from home where possible,” she said.

“While we expect that many of our staff will be able to work from home, we do have some staff who need to be in schools. What this looks like at each school will be specific to that site.”

There is an exception for teachers who work with students who have specialized needs.

It appears other school boards are still finessing the details.

A high school teacher from Sturgeon School Division told Global News Thursday that he has been directed to continue working from school, adding it is a “slap in the face” that teachers cannot work from home.

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The quality of education would not be diminished, so why is the expectation to still come into work when all employees are expected to work from home where possible, said the teacher, who requested anonymity to protect his job.

The teacher said his school has put measures into place and contact is already limited but he is frustrated he has not had the option to work from home.

That’s the hardest pill to swallow, he said.

“Employers are saying ‘If you have the means to work from home, why don’t you keep us safe and work from home? But teachers, disregard this message.’ What a slap to the face.”

Sturgeon School Division did not immediately respond to an inquiry from Global News about its work from home direction.

Click to play video: 'Alberta health minister calls restrictions necessary to ‘protect lives’'
Alberta health minister calls restrictions necessary to ‘protect lives’

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