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ATA president to meet with Education Minister over back to school concerns

Last Updated Aug 19, 2020 at 3:23 pm MST

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange speaks with students at a school in Edmonton on Oct 8, 2019 (CREDIT: @AdrianaLaGrange, Twitter)

EDMONTON (660 NEWS) – As concerns mount over school re-entry in Alberta, a meeting is happening Wednesday between the president of the Teachers’ Association (ATA) and the Minister of Education.

But with classes set to resume in just days, is this meeting coming too late?

“I know the timing is not great,” said ATA President Jason Schilling, who added it’s better late than never. He feels they have been spurned by Minister Adriana LaGrange to this point.

“We know that hundreds of teachers were laid off in the spring, maybe it’s an opportunity for us to provide extra funding to hire them back. We also need to talk about funding to make sure we have custodial staff in place to clean schools.”

WATCH: Parents, teachers share concerns about Alberta schools reopening

LaGrange has said the evidence around re-entry is based on advice from the Chief Medical Officer of Health and parents should feel safe about sending children back to school.

However, questions remain on the possibility of schools closing if there are COVID-19 outbreaks and the overall risk of transmission among students.

On Tuesday, Dr. Deena Hinshaw said officials are still working on the details for what to do if an outbreak occurs in a school. She said, at this time, there’s no threshold for how many cases will close a school.

RELATED: Few details known on outbreak plan for Alberta schools

Schilling said Alberta teachers have come forward with many concerns but LaGrange has ignored them.

“There are specific things that we would like to talk about and that is social distancing and class sizes within schools. We need to talk about substitute teachers. The list is quite long.”

However, Hinshaw said she has not been approached about these concerns.

“We would be happy to have that conversation but I haven’t had a specific request for a particular context come to us through the Education Ministry at this point.”

In light of the worries over in-person classes, many students are electing to go online with about 5,000 already signed up in the Calgary Catholic system as of Tuesday afternoon.

The meeting between the ATA and Minister LaGrange is set to start at 1:00 p.m.