Gateway Gazette

Safe Schools, Successful Students

15 Recommendations for an Alternative Relaunch Plan for Alberta Schools

This is an unprecedented situation and it requires unprecedented action. The alternative is to keep the schools closed indefinitely or reopen them in a manner that’s not safe, allow the virus to spread, and then shut down again.

We do not believe the plan put forward by Premier Jason Kenney and the UCP is adequate. There is not a single additional operational dollar invested in our schools to support a safe reopening, and the Premier’s plan comes after successive budgets from this Government filled with cuts to support for students with learning disabilities, student transportation grants and a host of other harmful reductions.

The UCP can do better. They must do better. We hope they reconsider their plan and implement these recommendations.

Recommendations: Class Sizes & Staffing

1 Set a provincewide cap of 15 students per classroom and hire the staff necessary to accomplish this.

2 Hire additional staff to cover paid sick leave and time off to care for sick dependents.

3 Hire additional staff to meet parallel and fluctuating home learning demands.

4 Hire additional custodial staff to ensure schools are cleaned thoroughly and constantly.

5 Reverse cuts to student support and rehire the more than 20,000 educational support staff laid off at the outset of the pandemic in acknowledgement of the difficult learning challenges students with disabilities face, especially during COVID-19.

Recommendations: Practices & Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

6 Develop comprehensive and consistent health and safety protocols for schools, including mandatory use of masks in common areas and physical distancing in classrooms.

7 Develop a best practices guideline to limit student travel between classrooms. Students and staff should stay in one classroom where feasible.

8 Limit parent and visitor admission to the school.

9 School authorities should consider ways to support hands-on learning should we be required to return to emergency remote home learning for options including art, music and Career and Technology Studies (programs like cosmetology, metal fabrication studies, mechanics and construction).

10 Provide emergency funding to school authorities to offset the cost of additional cleaning and personal protective equipment (PPE). Release a specific protocol on PPE and safe practices for students with disabilities and students that are medically fragile.

Recommendations: Busing

11 Develop a comprehensive and consistent health and safety protocol for school buses and provide funding for PPE specifically for use by bus drivers and passengers. Students should be grouped by family cohort where possible or classroom cohort where family members are not on the same bus.

12 Provide a grant by application for school boards to help ensure physical distancing on school buses.

Recommendations: Mental Health

13 Provide additional funding for mental health support for students and staff by reinstating funding for Regional Collaborative Service Delivery (RCSD).

Recommendations: Infrastructure

14 Working with municipal governments, create an inventory of existing public spaces (indoor and outdoor) in addition to schools for the use of school authorities.

Recommendations: Transparency

15 The Chief Medical Officer of Health should release a report with all of her recommendations to the government regarding school reopening, including funding and resource needs.

Rachel Notley and Alberta’s NDP are fighting for all Albertans to create a province that’s more progressive, sustainable, and where no one is left behind.

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