Calgary could ‘step into the fray’ on Alberta school reopening plan: mayor

Calgary could ‘step into the fray’ on Alberta school reopening plan: mayor

Calgary could ‘step into the fray’ on Alberta school reopening plan: mayor

Calgary’s mayor says the Alberta government’s plan to reopen schools in September isn’t good enough and the city could step in if it isn’t improved.

Naheed Nenshi said Wednesday that he’s “nervous” about kindergarten to Grade 12 classes returning to more-or-less normal, without mandatory masks, when daily COVID-19 infection rates are on the rise.

“Certainly we need a better plan from the education minister. We need a better plan from the government of Alberta,” he said.

“And if we don’t have one, the City of Calgary — we have to maintain people’s safety. And if we have to step into the fray, we will.”

Alberta Health reported another 133 COVID-19 cases and two additional deaths Wednesday. The province has seen more than 100 new cases on five of the last six days and infections are trending upwards.

Nenshi said the city does have a “very blunt tool” in the form of mandating masks.

The Alberta government has encouraged masks to slow the spread of COVID-19, especially in indoor settings where maintaining a two-metre distance isn’t possible. But it’s not making masks mandatory.

Calgary city council voted Tuesday to pass a temporary bylaw requiring face coverings in indoor public premises and public vehicles, effective Aug. 1.

Nenshi acknowledged that schools are provincial jurisdiction, but said city council could discuss its options before school starts.

He said the Alberta government and school boards have the ability to enact more nuanced rules than the city, such as making students wear masks only in the hallway or during close group work.

Under the province’s plan, schools with no outbreak would rely on measures such as hand sanitizer at the entrances, more frequent cleaning, grouping students into cohorts and planning the school day to allow for physical distancing.

Students and teachers would be required to stay home if sick. Masks would be optional.

The president of the Alberta Teachers’ Association said educators are eager to get back to work.

“But they want to make sure that they are doing this in the most safe manner possible and there are several questions and concerns about this scenario as it’s laid out,” said Jason Schilling.

Schilling wants as few students to a group as possible, and that would require more teachers.

The teachers’ union also wants to see a more robust sick leave policy, symptom checks for people entering schools and a testing protocol, along with assurances that there are enough substitute teachers to cover illnesses.

Schilling said consultations with the province were going well initially, but outstanding concerns went unaddressed in the weeks leading up the reopening announcement.

Schools were shut down in mid-March when the pandemic took hold in Alberta.

Barbara Silva, with the public education advocacy group Support our Students, said that’s when the province should have started investing in the infrastructure and staff needed to make schools safe.

“The recommendations are incredibly hollow if they’re not met with the resources and the funding that make those recommendations possible,” she said.

“So simply saying that students have to physically distance is impossible if you’re going to stuff 40 kids into a classroom made for 20 with no windows or windows that are non-operational.”

Silva said she’s worried students and staff are going to get sick, and that children’s education will once again be interrupted by another lockdown.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney reiterated Wednesday that shutting schools down indefinitely is bad for students’ mental-health and life prospects.

He noted countries in Asia and Europe have opened classrooms with relative safety.

Catholic school classes held in Alberta over the summer have been managed well during the pandemic, Kenney added.

One student who fell ill, and later tested negative for COVID-19, was immediately isolated and information was shared quickly, he said.

“That was a good dry run of how this would happen if and when there would be infections,” Kenney said.

“We can’t eliminate the risk of people contracting this virus, and that includes prospectively students and school staff. We have to manage the risk and that’s exactly what we’re doing in a prudent and careful way.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on July 22, 2020

Lauren Krugel, The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said the Canadian government should consider sanctions on the U.S. if they refuse to reconsider the decision to cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Keystone XL officially cancelled, Kenney vows to fight on

U.S. President Joe Biden cancelled the presidential permit for the pipeline on first day of office

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said province’s test positivity rate for COVID-19 is steadily declining. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
669 new COVID-19 cases in Alberta, 21 additional deaths

COVID-19 test positivity rate down to 4.5 per cent

Kyla Gibson with her boyfriend Gavin Hardy. (Photo used with permission)
Sylvan Lake couple lose ‘fur babies’ to house fire

‘They were our world and nothing will ever replace them,’ Kyla Gibson said of her three pets

Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw reported an additional 456 COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Five new COVID-19 deaths in Central zone, two in Red Deer

Province reports 456 new cases of COVID-19

Businesses are getting creative to keep cash flowing. (File photo)
Central Albertan lobbying government to help those affected by CERB repayments

Catherine Hay says she received a letter in November saying she had to completely repay the benefit

(Thesendboys/Instagram)
Video of man doing backflip off Vancouver bridge draws police condemnation

Group says in Instagram story that they ‘don’t do it for the clout’

Toronto’s Mass Vaccination Clinic is shown on Sunday January 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Canadian malls, conference centres, hotels offer up space for COVID vaccination centres

Commercial real estate association REALPAC said that a similar initiative was seeing success in the U.K.

Kamala Harris and Joe Biden are sworn into office on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Saul Loeb/Pool Photo via AP)
Joe Biden has been sworn in as the 46th president of the United States

About 25,000 National Guard members have been dispatched to Washington

A memorial for the fatal bus crash involving the Humboldt Broncos hockey team at the intersection of Highways 35 and 335 near Tisdale, Tuesday, October 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Liam Richards
‘End of the road:’ Truck driver in Humboldt Broncos crash awaits deportation decision

Sidhu was sentenced almost two years ago to eight years after pleading guilty to dangerous driving

In this March 28, 2017, file photo, a dump truck hauls coal at Contura Energy’s Eagle Butte Mine near Gillette, Wyo. Public opposition to the Alberta government’s plans to expand coal mining in the Rocky Mountains appears to be growing. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mead Gruver, File
Alberta cancels coal leases, pauses future sales, as opposition increases

New Democrat environment critic Marlin Schmidt welcomed the suspension

File photo
Wetaskiwin Crime Reduction Unit recovers valuable stolen property

Property valued at over $50,000 recovered by Wetaskiwin Crime Reduction Unit.

In this March 28, 2017, file photo, a dump truck hauls coal at Contura Energy’s Eagle Butte Mine near Gillette, Wyo. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mead Gruver, File)
First Nations seek to intervene in court challenge of coal policy removal

Bearspaw, Ermineskin and Whitefish First Nations are among those looking to intervene

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau vows to keep up the fight to sway U.S. on merits of Keystone XL pipeline

Canada’s pitch to the Biden team has framed Keystone XL as a more environmentally friendly project than original

Most Read