'COVID is still going to be with us': EPSB chair on planning for 2021-22
EDMONTON -- Believing schools will return in September still plagued by COVID-19, Edmonton Public Schools is planning to ask both the feds and province for more money.
Board chair Trisha Estabrooks says EPSB spent all of about $38 million it received from Ottawa – and then some – on hiring extra staff and putting supply staff in place.
“Those dollars have been well spent. The question is: What happens next year?” she asked.
While speaking Tuesday of the province's work to create a centralized booking system for Alberta Health Services clinics and participating physician offices and pharmacies, Premier Jason Kenney also teased work being done to organize vaccination clinics at schools.
"We are also working with the Department of Education on potentially rolling out school clinics for vaccination for those 12 and older," he said.
But Estabrooks reiterated: “Despite the vaccinations rolling out and despite the fact that now children 12 and older can receive the vaccine, I think we need to look forward – and our division is looking forward – to planning COVID is still going to be with us come this fall.”
It’s a topic at board meetings currently, although a budget and official ask of help won’t be finalized until June. Estabrooks said the board will be basing its request on what it spent in 2020-21 and next-year projections.
BRINGING STUDENTS BACK FOR SHORT TIME NOT 'VIABLE'
Edmonton public students, like all K-12 students in the province, are learning from home until May 25 under the latest round of COVID-19 public health measures.
According to Estabrooks, the board hasn't heard from the province whether that date will be pushed back, but will advocate for an extension if it feels it's needed.
Nor has the board received the data on in-school transmission it has repeatedly asked for from the province, which Estabrooks considers key to responding to COVID-19.
"If there is a chance that we’re sending kids back – whether K-6 or K-12 – and then they’re going to return to online learning before the end of the school year, that is not a viable solution," she said.
"If the answer is: there’s a potential they could return to in-home learning in two to three weeks' time, then it’s too soon."