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'I am excited': Edmonton schools reopen, but more than 1,100 staff members out already


In-person classes were reopened for roughly 700,000 Alberta students Monday, but in Edmonton, hundreds of teachers and assistants were unable to make it to work.

Edmonton Catholic Schools reported 420 absent staff members. The division has 5,000 employees and a spokesperson said classes were all covered.

Edmonton Public Schools had 454 teachers and 252 assistants absent. A total of 146 of those positions were unfilled for the day.

Neither division gave exact details on why their employees were absent, but Alberta had nearly 60,000 known active COVID-19 cases Monday. Other people had to be isolated at home or tested positive on a rapid test that was not recorded by the province.

"As of this morning, no classes, grades or schools have been moved online," said Megan Normandeau with Edmonton Public Schools.

"At this time, we are unable to provide any student absences for today because attendance is tracked by school intermittently throughout the school day. Our division will have more information on this data in the coming days."

Normandeau said families had until the end of the day Tuesday to declare if they'd like to do online learning.

The provincial government extended winter break by a week because of the pandemic, and classes started before all schools received shipments of rapid tests and medical-grade masks.


"I am excited, a little nervous, but excited, yeah," Grade 10 student Ellie McGuckin said outside of her school in west Edmonton.

"I think they’re taking precautions, because I’ve heard the teachers, and they seem like they have a handle on it."

Districts can shift classes or entire grades to online learning if they have COVID-19 cases, but the government has to approve requests to move entire schools or school authorities to at-home learning.

Student Gilbert Atukwatskibwe said he really did not want to try to learn online again.

"It’ll be a nuisance, because I’m not really good online. I just struggle to learn online," he told CTV News Edmonton.

"I mean like there’s COVID, but it’s pretty safe around here."


Mom Shea Pertman dropped her kids off at the school this morning, but she wasn't feeling great about it.

"I’m nervous, but I know that it’s what they need for their mental health and their learning," Pertman said.

"My kids are all vaccinated as much as they can be, and so are we at home. And so we’re hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst."

Pertman said she wouldn't be surprised if her kids are back at home soon with high rates of COVID-19 circulating in the community. She bought them all KN95 masks as a precaution.

Some have called for all students to be given KN95 or N95 masks, but the province is not doing that.

Instead medical-grade masks will be provided. Some critics said the government is "failing" with its plan despite losing a week of school.

"We're going back to basically the same thing," said Bradley Lafortune with Public Interest Alberta.

Lafortune wanted the government to provide test kits, HEPA filters and N95 masks before reopening. He also wants revised isolation rules and reinstated contact tracing.

"They are setting the public education system to fail, just as they have done time after time. Albertans are beyond sick of this utterly incompetent government," he said.

The group Support Our Students was also skeptical that the government learned from previous waves and outbreaks.

"I think that is poor planning, or some sort of disorganization from the top. It's probably a more chaotic opening than necessary," said Wing Li with S.O.S.

Li had concerns about testing, tracing and said parents were not obligated to report positive tests. She also pointed out that the youngest students are the least vaccinated.

"Remember too, kindergarten to Grade 3 is exempt from masking altogether, provincially."

Health Minister Adriana LaGrange tweeted that 8.6 million rapid tests and 16.5 million masks would be provided to schools.

"Schools play such a critical role in supporting students' overall wellbeing. Thank you to everyone in Alberta’s education system for their hard work to keep our schools safe for students and staff," she tweeted. 

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Jeremy Thompson and Joe Scarpelli Top Stories

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