Alberta focuses on returning to “near normal” classes to start 2020-2021 school year

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The Alberta government is aiming for a return to “almost normal” conditions with the return of students to classrooms in the province for the start of the 2020-2021 school year, said the Minister of Education, Adriana LaGrange.”Our goal is to get us back to normal learning as soon as possible,” LaGrange said at a press conference on Wednesday. “We are aiming for a return to normal operations with a few health measures in place. “

LaGrange has presented three scenarios that have been part of planning for weeks now.

The first scenario would see almost normal operations resumed, with students returning to daily classes at school with certain health measures. In the second scenario, school lessons would only partially resume with additional health requirements. The third scenario would see home learning continue.

A final decision on whether to open the schools will be made on August 1, she said.

“Based on the information we currently have, we expect students to be in school in September,” said LaGrange.

Plan must be “flexible and agile”

All school boards will need to be ready to switch from one scenario to another within a short period of time to adapt to any change in the situation of COVID-19, she said.

“The way we return to classroom learning can vary from region to region and will depend on the total number of COVID 19 cases in this area,” said LaGrange. “The reality is that the COVID-19 environment demands that we all be flexible and agile, flexible throughout the next school year. ”

The decision on which scenarios to follow will be made by the government on the basis of public health boards, said the minister, and not by local school boards.

This will help the province to ensure that all schools follow the appropriate health measures for their region.

“While things will not be exactly as they were before the pandemic, students will resume learning in an environment they know,” she said.

Since the schools closed in March, LaGrange said, teachers, the school board and parents have done their best to accommodate different ways of helping students learn at home, LaGrange said.

“We all know, however, that students learn best in class with their teachers and peers, provided that it is safe. “

New directives

Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said government school reintegration plan had tried to strike a balance as there were consequences for children learning at home rather than school.

“We know there are risks to these children; we know there are consequences for society at large to have a universal model of distance education, “she said. “So we have to balance the risks of pursuing this distance model against the risks of bringing students back to school, because there is unfortunately not a single risk-free option available to us. ”

Physical distance can be more difficult for young children, she said. Health officials have made recommendations to limit transmission, including reorganizing offices, restructuring activities, keeping children in cohorts, and using medical screenings, said Hinshaw.

The government’s guide for back to school in Scenario 1 includes several specific recommendations, including:

  • Cohort – Whenever possible, students should be cohorted by class, with the size of the cohort depending on the physical space of the class.
  • Physical distances – When two meters are not possible between desks, students should be arranged so that they do not face each other, for example, sitting in rows rather than in small groups or semicircles. When two meters are not possible, especially if the circumstances require close contact for more than 15 minutes, teachers, staff and students may choose to wear a non-medical face mask.
  • Pick-up / drop-off – The guide recommends staggering the times and locations of pick-up and drop-off or other means to minimize contact between staff, parents and students.
  • Transportation – Students should be assigned seats and a seat map record should be kept to facilitate contact tracing if a student contracts COVID-19. Students living in the same household should be seated together. Field trips and activities requiring group transportation should be rescheduled.
  • Food and Meals – Spread out lunch breaks and snacks to maintain physical distance. No activity involving food sharing should take place. For meals or snacks in class, no self-service or family-style meals. Schools should switch to prepackaged meals or meals served by designated staff. Food provided by the family should be stored with the student’s personal belongings.

Latest figures

The province has performed 6,582 tests for COVID-19 in the past 24 hours and has identified 47 new cases, for a total of 371 active cases across the province, said Hinshaw.

Of the 47 new cases, 22 are in the Edmonton area. Since June 1, the Edmonton area has increased from 44 active cases to 134 as of Wednesday’s update. The Calgary area still has the most active cases in the province with 203.

As of Wednesday, 42 people were hospitalized and treated for the disease, including six in intensive care beds.

No other deaths were reported, leaving the total at 151.

Hinshaw reported a small outbreak at Alberta Hospital in Edmonton, where four staff members tested positive. No patient has tested positive, she said.

Premier Jason Kenney announced Tuesday that Stage 2 of the province’s stimulus package will begin on Friday, allowing more businesses and services to reopen with two-meter physical distance requirements and other health measures public in place.

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