A safe return to schools this fall was the focus of teachers at the Alberta Teachers’ Association’s 103rd Annual Representative Assembly (ARA) held virtually on Aug. 13 and 14.
Generally held on the May long weekend, this was the first ever virtual assembly. It saw 450 teacher delegates representing all teachers in Alberta pass resolutions calling for
- the repeal of Bill 22, which would allow the Alberta Teachers’ Retirement Fund full control over choosing investment managers (Resolution 3-6);
- the inclusion of antiracism teachings in the curriculum redesign (3-39); and
- using legal measures to seek an overturn of Bill 32, to prevent infringements on teachers’ freedoms of speech and association (3-38).
School re-entry (3-31)
Teachers discussed school re-entry concerns, including the need for reduced class sizes, increased support staff, better mental health supports and the placement of public health nurses in schools. Delegates also called for the establishment of an ongoing multisector consultation committee to guide the re-entry to schools and beyond.
ATA president Jason Schilling, in his address to delegates, said that the government’s return to school plan lacks clarity and adequate funding, and is forcing teachers and parents to make very difficult choices.
Delegates from the floor also moved an emergent motion of non-confidence in Education Minister Adriana LaGrange, but ultimately referred it to the Association’s executive council after debate that ran into early Saturday morning. This prompted president Schilling to demand a meeting with LaGrange to discuss teachers’ school safety concerns.
Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, delegates passed an antiracism resolution calling on the government to ensure that the curriculum redesign includes specific outcomes related to antiracism teaching and the histories of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour.
“Systemic, societal change is often lead by the work of teachers in classrooms,” said executive council member Robert Twerdoclib, who introduced the emergent resolution. He noted that antiracism concepts and essential questions are absent from the draft scope and sequence for K–12 curriculum.
One of the delegates who spoke in favour of the resolution noted that racism is experienced daily in Alberta.
“As a first generation Black Canadian, the current events have really affected me,” she said. “I wonder how students have been affected.”
Delegates also passed the Association’s line-by-line budget for the upcoming year, including a fee increase of $81 per year. ❚