Despite relaunch plan, no answer yet on when Alberta schools should reopen
EDMONTON -- Premier Jason Kenney has now made it clear that the school year for Alberta students won’t see them back in classrooms this term — but there are still questions around whether he'll open the door for specialized programs a few months down the road.
“We will not be reopening the schools as a general rule for the balance of this academic year, however, we are in discussion with some school boards about some limited reopening on a trial basis and that would take into account, the possibility of summer classes,” Kenney said Thursday, as he unveiled the staged and tentative phases of reopening Alberta’s institutions, businesses and recreational facilities.
Edmonton’s two major school boards don’t yet know what opening summer school programs might look like, nor do they know if schools will be open in the fall.
“We do support the government’s direction to continue remote learning as physical distance is difficult when you’re looking at our classes, which are quite overcrowded, and some schools, as well as our buses,” Edmonton Catholic School Board Chair Laura Thibert told CTV Edmonton.
She praised the online teaching that instructors have been using to continue teaching curriculum to children isolated at home. Her counterpart at Edmonton Public Schools says she has heard concerns from parents about whether their kids are keeping up, or falling behind, the longer schools remain closed.
Trisha Estabrooks says she has all the same concerns for her school-age children. She said she's cautious about the prospect of schools opening in September.
“My fingers are crossed, not just as a board chair and a trustee, but as a parent of two young kids who are running around in my home right now, hoping that we can return to some sense of normalcy come September," Estabrooks said in an online media availability.
Both school boards say knowledge will be learned from the first phases about when schools can safely open. But some unknown variables could pop up in the equation.
Will distancing measures remain, once classes resume? Will everyone want to come back? And if traditional school settings need to change...at what cost will it happen?
Thibert says the Catholic school system will be open to those who want to continue online education if that’s something they choose in the fall.
“A lot of other school jurisdictions have looked to Edmonton Catholic to see what we’re doing and the remote learning is going very well," she said.
And while Estabrooks applauds the education minister for reaching out and problem solving during the pandemic, if September does see classes resume, more talks may need to happen if new guidelines are set.
“Spacing out our classrooms for example, where we will only have 15 students in a class...that would have budgetary implications," she said. "That’s a conversation that would have to happen with our provincial government. If and when, and that’s a big if and when, we are in that situation.”