EDMONTON – Students will be back in classrooms this fall, not continuing their education online.
Premier Jason Kenney and Education Minister Adriana LaGrange revealed the province’s COVID-19 back-to-school plan Tuesday, announcing K-12 students would be returning to their physical classes this coming school year.
— Courtney Theriault (@cspotweet) July 21, 2020
Kenney and LaGrange both say they have heard from many parents that they want to send their children back to school. But if some families still feel uncomfortable doing so, they will not be forced to and the government will respect parents’ decisions.
In the meantime, LaGrange urges parents to take a look at the province’s outline for returning to classrooms before making a decision.
As kids go back, Kenney says protocols will be regularly evaluated and while there will be COVID-19 cases in schools, the risks of continued school closures are too great.
Included in the back-to-school plan are changes to allow for physical distancing, like putting kids in cohorts. Some schools are looking at staggering class start and end times to limit the number of students in the hallway at the same time. Others are creating zones within the building so students have all of their classes within one area of the school to minimize contact.
There will also be a boost to hygiene in and around schools with increased cleaning, including on buses; some campuses will get updated technology like automatic doors, water bottle filling stations instead of water fountains, and touchless bathroom sinks; kids will have to wash hands before and after going to class; and reminders for kids and staff to stay home when sick.
Some of those changes will look different from district to district, according to LaGrange.
Everyone will have to complete a self-screening before entering the school. Any symptoms identified means the sick kid will be pulled aside and sent home.
Staff and students can wear masks if they choose but mask usage will not be mandated by the government.
The province is granting $250 million to Alberta’s school boards to help with necessary changes and upgrades.
In the event of an outbreak, Kenney says health officials will inspect the school and figure out what should be done, contact trace, and promptly contact parents. Depending on the severity of the outbreak, there could be plans to transition to partial or full online classes.
-with files from Tom Ross and Courtney Theriault