The suspension of in-person schooling in March has been hard for many students and their families. Kindergarten to Grade 12 education changed significantly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and I know that students, parents, teachers and school boards did their best to adapt to a different way of learning. However, we all know that students who attend schools learn best in the classroom with their teachers and peers, and our goal is to get us back to normal learning as soon as possible. With back to school season approaching, many parents have been eagerly waiting to see what school will look like this upcoming year.
This week, Alberta’s government announced that students will be returning to classrooms across the province at the beginning of the new school year. This is great news for families in our community. The decision to re-open schools has been made with the safety of students, teachers, and other staff members being the highest priority. For in-person learning to proceed, health measures are being put in place for their safety. Each school will implement public health measures, including frequent cleaning of surfaces, introducing hand sanitizers to school and classroom entrances, grouping students in cohorts, and adjusting schedules to allow for greater physical distancing. While school may feel a little different at first, these changes will allow a safe, near-normal return to class.
In addition to these measures, $15 million of capital spending is being moved up to replace old water fountains with water bottle refill stations, install automatic doors, automatic flush toilets, and other touchless technology to help limit the spread. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping Albertans informed on new measures has been a key part of Alberta’s response. To help prepare families, Alberta’s government has developed a re-entry toolkit to help prepare parents and students for what to expect in the new school year. This toolkit includes videos for students explaining some of the health measures, a guide for parents, frequently asked questions, school posters, a self-screening questionnaire in multiple languages, and links to health guidelines. The resources in the school re-entry toolkit will help families discuss changes with their children.
I know many school authorities are working to give parents as much choice as possible. Some divisions are working to allow for the choice to school from home with online/email assignment support. I thank those divisions that are working to provide as much choice as possible, and provide learning to those who may be immune compromised.
As Alberta’s students, parents, and teachers prepare for back to school, the Minister of Education will continue to work closely with school boards, and Dr. Hinshaw the Chief Medical Officer of Health, to ensure that all schools are prepared to welcome students back.
The re-opening of our schools, and our entire economy, is a result of the hard work of Albertans to slow the spread of COVID-19. We have worked hard in our area to look after each other and keep the spread of this virus down, and our local numbers are very low as a result. I thank you all for doing your part. As we move forward, and students return to school, we must continue to be mindful of guidelines and keep the numbers down. This will ensure a safer return for both students and staff. Each of us has the tools to ensure that we can safely return to daily life, and make this successful.
MLA Lac Ste. Anne-Parkland