With student Christmas breaks about to end, the Alberta Teachers Association (ATA) is calling on the provincial government to ensure schools are safe.
“The Omicron variant of COVID-19 is a complete game-changer. School communities expect that the mediocre measures that failed in Alberta’s fourth wave will be strengthened for the return to school next week,” ATA President Jason Schilling said. “Omicron is highly contagious, and we are likely to see a substantial number of people that will become sick or need to isolate. The minister needs to pay attention.”
Schools bring a large number of people together in relatively close quarters, and the ATA says it’s essential that better steps are taken to limit the spread of the virus within schools and between school communities.
“The Association has consistently advocated publicly and behind the scenes, for the minister to enact measures and set mandatory standards across the province for masking, improved ventilation, ongoing testing, consistent reporting to parents and public and, where possible, cohorting to limit student contact,” Schilling said.
Adding, “We are also asking for proactive preparation to manage the consequences of outbreaks by increasing the availability of substitute teachers, cancelling the January provincial examinations, and, if necessary, preparing for a swift but smooth transition to remote learning. It is not too late to listen and to act.”
The ATA has received feedback from Alberta teachers who are frustrated by the mixed messages, incomplete, inconsistent information about school-based outbreaks, lack of testing, and they feel like schools are being abandoned to figure out a path forward in the public health emergency.
“Over 96 per cent of teachers are now vaccinated and they would prefer to be back in the classroom teaching, but it must be safe. Teachers are willing to do their part, but the minister now needs to do hers and take immediate action to ensure that schools are as safe as they can be at the start of the New Year,” Schilling said.