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Education Minister trying to reassure parents schools are as safe as possible

Last Updated Sep 3, 2020 at 8:14 am MST

CALGARY (660 NEWS) – As more students return to the classroom this week, anxieties and confusion continue to mount as parents worry about whether the province has done enough to protect their kids.

In an exclusive interview with 660 NEWS, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange talks about those anxieties and what the government is doing to help students and teachers during the pandemic.

Many schools in Alberta are already in session, with more classes expected to start in the coming days.

LaGrange said so far the re-entry plan has been going well following conversations with various educational leaders this week.

She said as a parent, she understands why people may be concerned.

“I understand that the anxieties that are always there are heightened because of COVID and we are looking to do everything possible to mitigate those. If they have concerns, please bring them forward to your school, to your teacher, to your principal, to your superintendent. Make sure you get the answers to your questions.”

She added the government, along with Alberta Health is taking every necessary step to protect staff and kids.

“We have the best interest of children and staff in mind. Every decision we have made has been through the lens of ensuring the safety and security of our students and our staff. That has been the guiding factor right through to everything we have done to date.”

LaGrange added she will continue to work with the Chief Medical Officer and update the school plan when needed throughout the year.

Alberta’s Back-to-School plan has been criticized for not doing enough to keep students safe, especially when it comes to proper staffing, classroom sizes and PPE.

The Opposition NDP has been calling for class sizes to be cut in half to ensure physical distancing requirements are met.

However, last weekend, Dr. Deena Hinshaw issued a health order exempting schools from following the two-metre distancing rules.

Other groups, including the Alberta Teacher’s Association, have called for more funding and more staff in the school buildings and supports for substitute teachers.

On Wednesday, LaGrange announced how the province plans to use the $262 million provided by the federal government for education.

RELATED: Federal school funding to be used for staff, increased enrollment, cleaning: LaGrange

She said, about $250M will be given directly to all public, Catholic and independent school boards for COVID-19 related costs and staffing.

The move to give around $8M to the private school sector raised many eyebrows as some took to social media to decry the move saying public dollars should only go to public schooling.

LaGrange, a former Catholic school trustee, responded to those comments saying the funding is meant to support all students in the education system.

“The federal government, they counted every single student in their calculations because they also know that all children deserve a safe school environment. I find it very disappointing that there are individuals and special-interest groups that would safeguard the well-being of some students and not the well-being of others.”

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LaGrange ended the interview by thanking teachers, school boards and other educational leaders for working together to ensure the province’s re-entry plan goes smoothly.