A comprehensive re-entry plan for the upcoming school year allows schools and parents to prepare for learning while putting student and staff safety first.
The plan offers guidance on a wide range of operational issues including hygiene and health requirements, student learning, transportation and diploma exams. It also addresses mental health and psychological supports for students and staff.
School authorities will plan for all three scenarios for September:
- In-school classes resume (near normal operations with health measures)
- In-school classes partially resume with additional health measures
- At home learning continues (in-school classes are cancelled)
The preferred and likely scenario is that students will return to daily in-school classes at the beginning of the year. The government will share its final decision by Aug. 1 on which scenario will be in place at the beginning of the school year. However, school authorities are asked to prepare for implementing any of the three possibilities during the upcoming school year, including on short notice.
“We are providing clear direction and the certainty parents and the school system need to plan ahead and get ready for what the new school year may look like. We are hoping, and it is likely, students can return to daily classes at school while taking health precautions, but we have to prepare for all possibilities. I want to thank our education leaders, teachers and parents for their thoughtful contributions to this comprehensive plan.”Adriana LaGrange, Minister of Education
“This plan puts the interests of students and staff first. Educators, administrators, families, health professionals and government all need to work together to support a safe return to in-person classes. We continue to monitor the situation closely. The reality is, we must weigh the risk of prolonged school closures against the risk of COVID-19 outbreaks in closed settings, such as schools. A safe and successful school year will only be possible if we all work together.”Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health
The re-entry plan balances the need for provincial standardized approaches in some areas while also providing flexibility and recognition of school authorities’ autonomy to address health guidelines in the most effective ways in their own communities.
Alberta Education worked closely with many education partners on the plan, including the Alberta School Boards Association, the Alberta Teachers’ Association, the College of Alberta School Superintendents, the Association of Independent Schools and Colleges in Alberta, The Association of Alberta Public Charter Schools, individual school authorities and the Alberta School Councils’ Association which compiled input from more than 66,000 parents.
“The Alberta School Councils’ Association is pleased that considerations for the safety of students and staff remain priorities throughout this detailed plan, along with the recognition that school authorities are best suited to making operational decisions directly impacting their local school communities. We look forward to ongoing work and communications with the ministry, as this is key for successful implementation and return to school.”Brandi Rai, president, Alberta School Councils’ Association
“Alberta’s teachers are looking forward to supporting our students as we transition into the 2020-21 school year. As our recent survey indicates, teachers are concerned about the health and safety of themselves, their colleagues and their students. We expect to work with government to strengthen and improve the plans for re-entry to ensure that schools can provide healthy and safe environments for teachers and students.”Jason Schilling, president, Alberta Teachers’ Association
“Supporting the health and safety of students and staff continues to be a top priority for the ASBA and all school boards. We appreciate government providing clarity, while ensuring flexibility and autonomy, as each of Alberta’s public, Catholic and Francophone boards face challenges within the context of their local communities. As the situation evolves, we will continue to collaborate with government and our members to adjust the plan in preparation for the upcoming school year.”Lorrie Jess, president, Alberta School Boards Association
“The College of Alberta School Superintendents joins the province in its commitment to protecting the health and well-being of all students and staff as we transition to the 2020-21 school year. We appreciate the collaborative manner in which the re-entry plan has developed and are pleased that school divisions have been provided with the flexibility and authority to implement procedures beyond the plan that they deem necessary to ensure the safety of their learning environments.”Bevan Daverne, president, College of Alberta School Superintendents
“We are deeply appreciative of the ongoing consultation with all educational partners by the Minister of Education and the ministry as a whole in these trying circumstances. Teachers and systems have responded to the pandemic with remarkable energy and ingenuity. The proactive, engaging leadership of our government continues to be essential for education to fulfil its vital role in Alberta through this critical time.”Ron Koper, chair, The Association of Alberta Public Charter Schools
“Our association appreciates the government’s collaborative approach in developing this re-entry plan. We remain committed to supporting our schools so that their staff and students can experience a safe and positive learning environment in the coming academic year.”Simon Williams, president, Association of Independent Schools and Colleges in Alberta
Public health guidance for schools
Return to in-school class learning may vary across the province and is dependent on the number of COVID-19 cases in the local area. School boards should develop their own COVID-19 plans under the applicable scenario and health guidelines prior to reopening.
Measures to reduce the risk – scenario 1 (in-school classes resume – near normal operations with health measures)
- Enhanced cleaning and disinfecting, including daily cleaning for all areas of the school, washrooms and high-touch surfaces cleaned several times a day or more as needed.
- Regularly scheduled deep cleaning when students are not present.
Student/staff hygiene and illness
- Routine screening for all staff and students.
- Strict stay-at-home policy for any students or staff exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19.
- Hand hygiene expectations when entering and exiting the school and classrooms, before and after eating.
- Continual reminders of the importance of respiratory etiquette (e.g., cover coughs and sneezes, avoid touching the face and disposal of used tissues promptly, followed by hand hygiene).
- Students who develop symptoms at school may be asked to wear a mask and isolate in a separate room until a parent arrives for pickup. If a separate room is not available, the student must be kept at least two metres away from other individuals.
Physical distancing and grouping
- When possible, practise some physical distancing as a good precaution to prevent the spread of disease.
- In classrooms, buses and during activities when physical distancing may not be possible, extra emphasis is put on other hygiene practices.
- Reorganization of rooms to allow for more physical space.
- Cohorting of students by class where possible.
- Guiding foot traffic flow through entrances and hallways by using markers on the floor or pylons/barriers.
- Avoiding large gatherings such as assemblies.
- Staff and students will not be mandated to wear masks.
- Masks may be considered in circumstances where there is prolonged close contact (greater than 15 minutes) and distance of two metres cannot be maintained.
- Masking is generally not recommended for younger students.
- A no-sharing policy – all students should have their own supplies.
- Where sharing of equipment is required, the equipment should be cleaned between uses.
Cases of COVID-19 in a school
- The zone medical officer of health will work with school authorities on the rapid identification of cases through easily accessible testing, rapid close contact identification, and isolation measures when needed.
- The zone medical officer of health will also work with school authorities to provide follow-up recommendations and messaging for staff, parents and students.
- Alberta Health Services may request the school to close in-person classes to allow the public health investigation to take place.
- Each school authority will support students and staff to learn or work at home if they are required to self-isolate.
Measures to reduce the risk – scenario 2 (in-school classes partially resume with additional health measures)
The same considerations as scenario 1, with the following differences:
- A recommended maximum of 15 people in a classroom to allow for more consistent physical distancing.
- Students will attend school less regularly as school authorities will need to adjust their class schedule and configuration to meet the physical distancing requirement.
Non-COVID-19 operational highlights
- Any summer programming will follow scenario 2 of the re-entry plan and the associated public health measures.
- August diploma exams will proceed for students taking diploma courses this summer.
- For the 2020-21 school year, diploma exams will be held if the first or second scenarios are in place. In scenario 3, exams may be cancelled.
- Provincial achievement tests (PATs) for Grades 6 and 9 can be held in the first and second scenarios, but will be optional for school authorities to participate.
- If scenario 3 is in place at the beginning of the school year, the January PATs will be cancelled. May/June PATs may be cancelled based on the duration of at-home learning.
- School authorities can, as deemed appropriate at the local level, reduce time spent teaching non-core subjects to allow for additional instruction time on core subjects.
- School authorities must enable the full participation and inclusion of students with disabilities under each scenario and address any learning gaps from the 2019-20 school year.
- Mental health supports should be in place for students and staff.
This plan is part Alberta’s Relaunch Strategy to safely begin removing public health restrictions and reopen our economy. For more information, visit alberta.ca/RelaunchStrategy.