'We want all kids to be safe': Advocates want Alberta school year delayed, similar to B.C.
EDMONTON -- A public education advocacy group called Support our Students (SOS) is just one group calling on the province to follow B.C.'s lead and delay the start of the school year.
Wing Li, a parent and member of the group SOS, says she won't be sending her daughter to school in September, because she isn't convinced it'll be safe.
"As a parent, I'm going to look into other options," said Li.
The group is worried that teachers and staff won't have enough time to prepare and make sure schools are safe before students arrive.
"If we need to implement PPE, if we need to implement safety measures in infrastructure, that's going to take time as well," said Li.
B.C's plan also includes limiting classrooms to 15 students, staggering start and end times and improving ventilation in classrooms, which Li says is more comprehensive compared to the plan Alberta currently has in place.
"We want more thoughtful, comprehensive collaboration with teachers and all of the partners that need to come together and make sure our kids are safe."
Li says that the province's plan of providing two reusable face masks to each student isn't enough, pointing out that not every family is able to afford extra masks, especially if they have multiple children in school.
"Just providing two reusable masks for [Grades] 4 to 12 is really not, it’s really saying 'you’ll figure it out,' and we don’t think that’s leadership," said Li.
"We want all kids to be safe regardless of ability to provide their own mask."
Support our Students is one of several groups that think Alberta should follow British Columbia's lead and delay re-entry for kids.
"To give teachers reassurance to actually be able to try the physical distancing in real time in their classrooms and try to trouble shoot," said Dr. Amy Tan with Masks 4 Canada. "This is a brand new situation for everybody so being able to simulate things for a couple of days is great."
Jason Schilling, President of the Alberta Teachers Association, says there are shortfalls that have yet to be addressed in the re-entry plan.
"Which doors do kids come through? What’s it going to look like in my classroom? How am I going to set my classroom up? The scenario talks about the removal of items from classrooms like rugs or soft surfaces and things like that, there's a lot to do to get ready," said Schilling.
"I'll also note that we’re still waiting from the Chief Medical Officer of Health on the toolkit of what happens if there’s outbreaks in schools," said Schilling.
A spokesperson from the Ministry of Education says in a statement officials are following advice from the Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw, who approved the re-entry plan.
“At this point, the advice does not include delaying the start of the school year.”
However, the spokesperson says they will make adjustments as necessary.
"The context and process of deciding school re-entry is something that the Ministry of Education sets, so that probably would be a question they would be better positioned to answer," said Dr. Hinshaw.
But Li argues Alberta's rising COVID-19 cases should also be a factor in any decisions by the province moving forward.
"Because the community transmission is directly related to the health and safety and transmission rates in schools," she said.
During Wednesday's provincial update Dr. Hinshaw recommended teachers and school-based staff be tested for COVID-19 before classes start in September, and throughout the year.
With files from CTV News Edmonton's Amanda Anderson.