I would first like to take a moment to thank Chestermere Council – and specifically Councillor Ritesh Narayan – for their love and compassion for the family of Shane Smith. This tragedy has shown us yet again how precious and precarious life is. Thank you for honouring this life that left us too soon.
I would like to chat about the school re-entry plan with respect to some of the updates. Safety has been, and will always be, paramount in these decisions. That is why we brought forward a robust school re-entry plan that will ensure the safety of our staff and students. Unfortunately, the fear mongering from the opposition would have you believe that they developed a re-entry plan that works, and that only their ideas can keep our kids safe. In reality, the opposition’s recommendations simply are not feasible. We have to help our kids understand and follow protocols to the best of our ability as parents, caregivers and teachers. We all share a responsibility in the health of our kids and in making school re-entry as successful as possible. We will not be free of this virus in our schools, but we can do a lot to help our kids to prepare. Additionally, the opposition’s proposed 15-person cap would require an additional 13,000 teachers to be hired by September. To put this into perspective, a 2017 court ruling forced British Columbia to hire 3,700 teachers. It took BC 2 years to comply with this ruling, and it resulted in a nation-wide teacher shortage. If it took BC 2 years to hire just 28% of the teachers we would require, and it forced a nation-wide teacher shortage, where does the opposition expect Alberta to find 13,000 teachers by September?
Our Minister of Education Adriana LaGrange stated that the other major flaw with the opposition’s guesstimate-ridden proposal is the classroom space required. As with the teachers, we would require 13,000 new classrooms to be ready by September. This would be equivalent to 800 new schools. Since this has been pointed out, the NDP have made some pretty large assumptions, claiming that cities and private organizations would willingly open their doors free-of-charge, and that it would be easy to find this space. This claim does not take into account health and safety concerns, building standards, municipal zoning issues, and access to spaces in our rural and remote communities. Again, this may sound great on paper, but it is extremely clear that the NDP did not do their homework.
There is only one school re-entry plan in Alberta that has been developed in collaboration with and approved by our Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw, and that is the one developed by Alberta’s government. Unfortunately – in recent months – the NDP have continued to try and drag Dr. Hinshaw through the mud, consistently working to undermine her expert advice. This kind of behaviour in the middle of a pandemic is inexcusable for any elected official, let alone their entire caucus.
The safety and well-being of our students and educators should not be a partisan issue, but the NDP have decided to make it one. Our plan was built out of collaboration. School superintendents, school boards, parents and the teachers’ union all were involved in the conversations that created our three scenarios, and our plan for September has the confidence of those who are responsible for running our schools every day. I am always willing to listen to ideas about how we can keep our students safe, which is why we have committed to adjusting our guidelines as necessary as we approach September. What’s become clear to me is that the NDP’s number one priority is scoring cheap political points off the back of a pandemic and our children’s safety. As a mother, I find that behaviour reprehensible. That was the foundation for the Government’s school re-entry plan, and that will continue to be the foundation as we enter the school year.
Finally, I would like to share with you some information about the new Ministerial Order on Student Learning. We were very honoured to work with the Curriculum Advisory Panel and we received responses from more than 8,000 Albertans, and we worked with 300 education partners to carry out the intent of the panel’s work and to focus on essential and foundational competencies throughout the entire curriculum. The emphasis on numeracy and literacy is something we heard about throughout the entire campaign leading up to the last election. This vision for student learning had a tremendous amount of public engagement, and contrary to the opposition’s arguments, does not take away from creativity, or styles of teaching that are conducive to the complex and unique classrooms that teachers manage. This is about reforming, updating and strengthening the curriculum so that Alberta students have everything they need to succeed by the time they leave high school. The world is changing rapidly and Alberta students need to be ready for that challenge, and to be able to confidently face their future. If COVID has taught us anything, it is that we have to be able to face uncertainty with adaptability and a willingness to be flexible in a fast-paced world. As always, we love to hear from you.
P.S.: Here are two important messages I would like to share from our Trustees:
Dear Parents and Guardians of Rocky View Schools,
As we get closer to the start of the school year we have some information to share. Please see the link to the letter sent to all parents and guardians, and we will be providing more information and more opportunities for you to provide feedback and ask questions before the start of the school year. All of that information will be emailed to you as well as posted on our website and on other social media platforms.
Please go through the letter carefully as there is a lot of information and some answers.
We don’t have all of the answers, and we likely haven’t thought of all of the questions, but we do all have the same goal in mind – ensuring the safety and well-being of your child as they are educated in whatever platform you decide.
We do need to operate under some regulatory guidelines from the government and from Alberta Health, but we also have the opportunity to make decisions that fit the local context of our school community. Your input is invaluable so please don’t hesitate to offer your thoughts and questions.
More information is forthcoming.
You can reach me at email@example.com
With the return to school fast approaching Rocky Views Schools (RVS) is continuing to finalize plans that allow for the safe return to school for our students and staff.
We recognize that you have many questions regarding the return to school – what cleaning protocols are in place, is there an online learning program, what if my child has allergies that present like COVID symptoms, what if my child gets sick at school, and many more. RVS is committed to getting more details to you as soon as possible and has posted a Parent Q&A on our website to answer some of your initial questions. We encourage you to continue to direct your questions through the online Q&A form. We will regularly post responses as questions come in.
The most common question received is what online learning options will be available for 2020/21. We are working hard to finalize these plans and can let you know that RVS will be offering a teacher-supported online learning program for Gr. 1 – 12. Watch for an email on Aug. 14, 2020 about what this will involve and look like in RVS. We appreciate the significance of this decision and we want to provide as much detail as possible to help you determine what will work best for your family in this upcoming school year. Families will have until Aug. 24 to decide if they want to move to RVS’ online offering.
RVS continues to be committed to the safety and well-being of our 26,000+ students and our 2500+ staff. Our Scenario 1 School Re-entry Plan has been updated to include the additional health measures recently announced by government, which now includes mandatory mask use. Masks will be mandatory for all staff and teachers, and for students in Gr. 4 – 12 where physical distancing is not possible in schools and on buses. RVS continues to encourage mask use for students in Kindergarten – Gr. 3.
Much of the information outlined in our re-entry plan is guided by provincial direction and the feedback we have received from parents, students and staff. Your feedback will continue to be instrumental when schools re-open so that we can improve our plans as needed.
We are confident our re-entry plan protects the safety and wellbeing of our students, teachers, and staff and by working together, we can minimize risks and provide a safe and caring learning environment. We are also prepared to respond quickly and adjust our plans as we receive new direction from the government and provincial health authorities. More COVID-19 information can be found on the Government of Alberta’s website.
We look forward to providing you with a clearer picture of what the school year will look like and your options soon and thank you for your ongoing patience and feedback as we move into this new learning environment.
Board Chair Fiona Gilbert and Superintendent of Schools Greg Luterbach