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Province announces ‘near normal’ return to class this fall

Masha Scheele
Local Journalism Initiative

Students will return to daily learning in K-12 classrooms at the beginning of the school year, announced the Alberta government on July 21.

Earlier in June, Alberta Minister of Education Adriana LaGrange, released three scenarios of what K-12 schooling could look like in the fall including the targeted scenario of near-normal operations with in-school classes and some health measures.

This week, LaGrange announced that schools would be moving ahead with that targeted scenario.

Only 14 per cent of all Alberta infections have been amongst youth under the age of 19 and over the past five months only eight school aged children have been infected with COVID-19, stated Premier Jason Kenney during the update.

He added that a survey done by the Alberta School Council Association found that more than 86 per cent of parents supported a back to school plan.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, noted that extended school closures negatively impact children’s overall long term mental, emotional, and physical health.

The government developed a re-entry tool kit to prepare parents and students and health officials will continue to closely monitor the situation and update the guidance for schools based on the best evidence available.

“School days will look mostly the same as before COVID-19 but with some modifications,” stated LaGrange.

Guidance offered by the government includes placing hand sanitizer at all entrances, frequent cleaning, grouping students in cohorts and planning the school day to allow for physical distancing. 

Students are recommended to be cohorted by class, which will decrease the number of close contacts a case of COVID-19 would have in a school and assist public health officials in their efforts to trace contacts and contain an outbreak.

Masks will not be mandatory for kids in school.

Parents, students and school staff must review the self-screening questionnaire each day before going to a school building. 

Parents are encouraged to talk to schools about their child’s pre-existing medical conditions and the schools must keep a confidential record of these conditions.

If a student shows symptoms at school, parents should pick up the child immediately. 

The student will be asked to wear a non-medical mask and be isolated in a separate room or kept at least two metres away from others. 

In the case of a COVID-19 infection, the zone medical officer of health will work with school authorities to identify cases, identify close contacts, and create isolation measures when needed.

A COVID-19 case will not automatically lead to school closure. 

It could be that only the group of students and staff who came in close contact will be required to stay home for 14 days.

School authorities can reduce time spent teaching non-core subjects to allow for additional instruction time on core subjects.