Alta. announces reopening plan for schools

Alberta students will be back in classrooms in September unless there are major changes in the current pandemic situation.

Premier Jason Kenney today announced education plans under “scenario 1,” described as “near normal daily operations with health measures.”

The province has developed a re-entry tool kit for parents and students that outlines health measures to be undertaken.

“Under scenario 1, schools will implement a number of public health measures, which include frequent cleaning of surfaces, placing hand sanitizers at school entrances and classrooms, grouping students in cohorts, and planning the school day to allow for physical distancing, which could include staggering start times for classes, recesses and lunches,” said the government news release.

“Additional public health measures may be established prior to September on the advice of the chief medical officer of health in consultation with the education system.”

School staff, students, parents and school visitors will be expected to use a self-screening questionnaire for COVID-19 before entering schools.

“The return of more than 750,000 students to near-normal learning in the new school year is indicative of Alberta’s continued recovery as we work to relaunch our economy and return to our regular everyday lives,” Kenney said.

Chief medical officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw said there is no risk-free approach to reopening schools but there are also risks from remaining out of school.

“We are continually refining our public health advice for schools based on best available evidence. We also have plans in place to respond quickly when cases are identified. Limiting the spread of the virus in schools will require the dedication and support of all Albertans when the school year begins this fall,” said Hinshaw.

Full funding is available to schools as of July 1, and every school authority will see an increase for the coming year, amounting to about $120 million province-wide. School board reserves are also available to cover local COVID-19 related costs, the news release said.

If there is an outbreak of the virus in a community or school, health officials, Alberta Education and the affected school will decide on potential moves to partial in-class learning or at-home learning. More details can be found here.

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