Alberta’s students will be heading back to school this September.
With COVID-19 closing schools early this past spring, governments and school boards across the world have been planning for what the start of the school year will mean with the pandemic still presenting a very real risk to public health.
The Province of Alberta announced in a release on Tuesday that its over 750,000 K-12 students would be heading back to classrooms come September.
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“Alberta continues moving ahead with our recovery and relaunch plan. I’m proud of our comprehensive plan that supports the safe return to daily in-school learning,” said Premier Jason Kenney in the release.
“The return of more than 750,000 students to near-normal learning in the new school year is indicative of Alberta’s continued recovery as we work to relaunch our economy and return to our regular everyday lives.”
Presented as Scenario 1, the province stated that schools will be reopened with near-normal daily operations that include some health measures.
These health measures include the frequent cleaning of surfaces, hand sanitizer placed at entrances, students grouped into cohorts, and the possibility of staggered class, recess, and lunch times to allow for physical distancing.
The release notes that additional measures may be put into place prior to September on the advice of Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw.
“We are committed to doing everything possible to protect the health and safety of students, staff and families during the upcoming school year. There is no risk-free approach to COVID-19 but there are also risks to children’s overall health from school closures,” said Hinshaw in the release.
“We are continually refining our public health advice for schools based on best available evidence. We also have plans in place to respond quickly when cases are identified. Limiting the spread of the virus in schools will require the dedication and support of all Albertans when the school year begins this fall.”
Students, staff, parents, and any visitors to Alberta’s schools will also be expected to reference a daily self-screening questionnaire to ensure they are healthy enough to enter.
Any students displaying any coronavirus symptoms will not be allowed into their school until they test negative for the virus.
An additional $120 million has been provided to the province’s schools to help cover coronavirus-related costs, as well as a go-ahead to dip into the school board reserves of $363 million if necessary.
Students will be allowed to wear masks if they choose to do so, though the province has not made them mandatory.
“Practices such as physical distancing, cohorting, frequent handwashing, staying home when sick and increased cleaning of surfaces will continue to be the priority public health measures,” the release states.
The release also noted that an outbreak at a community or school may result in Alberta Education transitioning the school to Scenario 2, which would limit the number of students in a classroom to 20, among other restrictions.
The Province of Alberta has created two videos detailing the new health measures that students will me expected to abide by come September, with one geared towards younger students and the other towards older students.