Year-round Edmonton Catholic schools are reinstating COVID-19 safety measures as students return to class
Nearly a thousand year-round Catholic school students returned to the classroom on Wednesday, as schools waited for guidance from the government on COVID-19.
Three schools in Edmonton take shorter summer breaks for more time off during the year: St. Teresa of Calcutta Elementary School, St. Catherine Catholic Elementary and Junior High and St. Alphonsus Catholic Elementary and Junior High.
These three schools say they are all keeping last year’s protocols in place while waiting for guidance from the government on COVID-19.
Krista MacGregor, principal at Alphonsus Catholic Elementary, says that includes mandatory masks, screening protocols, smaller class sizes and increased ventilation.
“We just thought it is a lot easier for our Kindergarten to Grade 9 just to follow what we were doing in June so it is not very different,” said MacGregor.
MacGregor says her staff and school community look forward to returning to in-person learning.
In fact, she says more students at St. Alphonsus are returning to in-person learning with the total number of students learning online dropping from 80 to 20.
“It is great to have them back. For teachers, they want to have those bodies back in the classroom. That is what teaching is all about – it is building those relationships in the classroom,” said MacGregor.
The provincial government plans to remove mandatory quarantine for people who test positive for the virus and stop asymptomatic testing starting Aug. 16.
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Jason Schilling, president of Alberta Teachers’ Association, says without direct guidance from the government, students and teachers are feeling a sense of anxiousness.
“Once again we find ourselves sort of in a repeat of what we had last summer, with a lot of questions with a couple of weeks for school to start and nothing coming out of the government in terms of guidance or what schools can expect in the fall,” he said.
“The sooner we can get this information, the better off we would be,” he added.
Alberta Education says a document outlining safety protocols is being finalized and will be released later in August.
Schilling says schools should keep last year’s safety protocols that were in place to keep the community safe.
Other Alberta school districts, which have students returning in September, said they are still working on their return-to-school plans.
Trish Estabrooks, Edmonton Public School Board trustee, says e-mails continue to pour in advocating for a continuation of COVID-19 protocols.
“We have heard a number of concerns. Parents are worried and we are three weeks from the start of the next school year -- there is still a lot of uncertainty," said Estabrooks.
"Dozens of e-mails, dozens of phone calls that I am personally receiving and I know my collegues are receiving, are asking that we keep those same protocols in place," she added.
Estabrooks says following last year's protocols is the "move that makes sense" given the rise of the Delta variant. She promised parents' concerns were being heard.
"I would say certainly by this week, we need some clear leadership and we need some clear direction made from the government of Alberta, from our elected officials, and also from Dr. Deena Hinshaw."
Calgary's public school board similarly told The Canadian Press it is monitoring an evolving situation.
In a statement from Calgary Board of Education, spokeswoman Megan Geyer said the district is working closely with Alberta's health and education ministries “to ensure appropriate health and safety protocols are adhered to in our schools and work places.”
Geyer said the board is sharing additional information with staff and families later this month.
On Tuesday, Alberta reported an additional 279 new COVID-19 cases and two deaths.
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With files from The Canadian Press