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Government sticks to re-entry plan

August 27, 2020 Cory Hare, ATA News Managing Editor


Alberta Education declines ATA call for delayed return

With school re-opening on the near horizon, it’s time for government to act on teachers’ concerns and improve its re-entry plan to increase the safety of students and teachers.

That was the conclusion of ATA president Jason Schilling following a meeting with Education Minister Adriana LaGrange on Wednesday, Aug. 19.


The Alberta Teachers’ Association has suggested a delay to the start of the school year so that adequate preparations can take place.

“We put everything on the table and we had a fulsome discussion about the things that are big concerns for teachers. Whether [government] truly listened to what we had to say, that’s on them,” Schilling said. “We did the best that we can to make sure that our points were put across. It’s government’s turn to act on this.”

While nothing was formally agreed to, Schilling said he expects to hear more from the minister on the issues discussed.

During the meeting, Schilling called for the minister to delay the start of school until after Labour Day so that teachers, principals and other staff can prepare for the arrival of students. Beyond Labour Day, he suggested a staggered re-entry based on local readiness.

Schilling also reiterated a list of priorities that the ATA has been advocating for throughout the summer. The priorities were formulated following a survey of teachers and consultation with Dr. Lynora Saxinger, a leading epidemiologist.

“Teachers want to go back to work, but we have to make sure that it’s safe,” Schilling said.

Schilling demanded the meeting with the minister following a discussion at the Annual Representative Assembly on Aug. 14 during which delegates debated whether or not to pass a motion of non-confidence in the minister.

“Teachers have been expressing to me that they feel like they’ve not been listened to in terms of their concerns,” Schilling said. “I was glad to have the conversation with the minister today. I reiterated the fact that I want to have as much open communication back and forth so that we are able to express the concerns of our members to the government and, in turn, hopefully have the government act on the concerns that we’re putting forward.”

In July the province announced that it would proceed with the first of three possible scenarios for returning to school, whereby students would return under “near normal” conditions. The plan calls for schools to practice physical distancing where possible, reorganize rooms to allow more space and create student cohorts where possible. The province updated the plan on Aug. 4 to include mandatory masks for staff and students in grades 4 to 12 where physical distancing cannot be maintained. ❚



Teachers’ Priorities

  • An ongoing multistakeholder working group that includes public health
  • A clear plan for transitioning schools between scenarios
  • Increased physical distancing through reduced class sizes
  • Funding for enhanced staff, protective equipment and HVAC improvements
  • Better plans for screening and testing of students and staff
  • Resources and supports to ensure the safety and availability of substitute teachers



Adriana LaGrange, post-meeting statement

“As always, my ministry, department officials and I are happy to meet our stakeholders to receive their input on this important matter.

Ensuring the safety and well-being of our staff and students has guided all decision making around school re-entry since we first cancelled in-person classes in March and we thank the ATA for their role in helping us develop the current school re-entry plan.

We understand that parents and teachers across the province want a safe return to classes in the fall. That is why we will continue to follow the expert medical advice of our chief medical officer of health, who approved our school re-entry plan and who, along with her team, worked to develop the health guidelines for schools. The plan also has support from our school superintendents and schools boards and was developed in consultation with the education system as a whole.

As we continue to work with Dr. Hinshaw and our education system, we will make adjustments as necessary. ”



  Listen in

Listen to Dr. Lynora Saxinger’s telephone town hall with Alberta teachers. Visit > News and Info > Issues > COVID-19 > 2020 School Re-entry > School Re-entry Telephone Townhall.