'We were at a tipping point': Edmonton Public Schools welcomes Alberta's shift to online learning
EDMONTON -- Edmonton Public Schools says it's pleased with the province's plans to shift junior and senior high students back to online learning until early in the new year.
On Tuesday, the province announced students from Grades 7 to 12 will start online learning on Nov. 30 and not return to classrooms until Jan 11, though online learning will resume the week before.
The changes were part of a new public health emergency declared by the province amid mounting COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
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"This is absolutely the right decision for our students, for our families, and for our school division," said Trisha Estabrooks, chair of Edmonton Public Schools.
"We were at a tipping point, even a breaking point."
She said on Tuesday, EPSB had 100 unfilled teaching positions and more than 1,000 students home isolating due to coronavirus precautions.
Estabrooks said the public school board did not get any notice of the changes.
"The first time we heard was at the premier's address," she said.
The province says school authorities will work with families to develop at-home learning plans.
"We'll work with them through the whole process to ensure our students are getting the best education possible," said Adriana LaGrange, minister of education.
"The best way to approach this was to go to at-home learning given the fact we have a natural break over the Christmas holidays."
The number of active cases among Albertan children aged between five and 19 has grown from 233 at the start of September to 2,140 as of Nov. 23.
There are outbreaks, defined as between two and four cases, at 117 Alberta schools as of Nov. 23.
EPS reports 450 positive cases between Sept. 3 and Nov. 10 that together forced more than 10,000 students and 1,100 staff to self-isolate.
Edmonton Catholic Schools did not have precise numbers available but say it has also seen cases rise significantly in recent weeks and supports the changes citing "additional pressures" on staff.
"We agree that elementary students should remain in school as we are better able to serve our youngest learners as they develop their fundamental skills, in addition to supporting parents’ need to be able to work," reads an ECS statement.
"We will now re-deploy some of our dedicated substitute teachers to our elementary schools."
Alberta has reported record high numbers of new cases, deaths, hospitalizations and test positive percentage in recent weeks.