Political Engagement

Education in the News
Calgary Herald (Print Edition) - Eva Ferguson - December 21, 2020
Just over two weeks after a provincial mandate to shutter all classrooms in Grades 7 to 12, cases of COVID-19 among teachers and students are still rising, even in schools that are closed.
Edmonton Journal - David Staples - December 23, 2020

The number of Alberta students who are functionally innumerate has doubled in recent years. These Grade Four girls and boys can’t add and subtract, can’t measure things and can’t analyze basic data.

In 2007, only six per cent of our students fell into this category, butin 2015 that percentage shot up to 13.2 per cent...

Teachers and staff want to be next on vaccine priority list; Concerns about class sizes, inability to physically distance still exist, union says

Calgary Herald (Print Edition) - Eva Ferguson - December 16, 2020
As the first phase of vaccinations rolls out in Calgary and Edmonton for health workers and the vulnerable, advocates for teachers and school staff are demanding they be a top priority for the next phase of vaccines.
The Grande Prairie and District Catholic Schools (GPCSD) trustees decided to lower their base salary by four per cent at their meeting Dec. 14.

Alberta eases close-contact determination for school staff after COVID-19 exposure

Global News - Julia Wong - December 8, 2020

Rules around which school staff have to isolate after a positiveCOVID-19case is confirmed in the classroom have been relaxed by Alberta Health Services.

Previously, anyone who was in a classroom with an infectious case was considered a close contact and required to self-isolate.

From the Legislature

Note: The legislature is now adjourned until February

School Re-entry Plan and Education Funding, December 7

Sarah Hoffman (NDP) MLA for Edmonton-Glenora asked Minister of Children’s Services Rebecca Schulz when the government will act to reduce class sizes to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in schools. Schulz answered that the re-entry plan provided staff and students with the resources need to ensure a safe school year including$10 million in PPE for students and staff, which purchased 1.6 million reusable masks and 466,000 litres of hand sanitizer. Hoffman noted that government also cut $128 million just prior to that and asked why teachers and principals must be health care workers, infectious disease specialists and educators all at the same time. Schulz said that the NDP plan was unrealistic in terms of space and dollars and government will continue to work with education partners to keep students and staff safe.

Educational Curriculum Review and Redesign, December 7

Mark Smith (UCP) MLA for Drayton Valley-Devon asked Minister of Children’s Services Rebecca Schulz to explain what information about the curriculum review can be found on the new government website. Schulz answered that the Department of Education has published a website where Albertans can find detailed information about the review process, how curriculum is being developed, and who is working on it. She added that the previous government “worked tirelessly to hide the membership of their curriculum working groups from the public. Albertans elected us to pause those closed-door secretive curriculum reviews, and that is exactly what we’re doing. We committed to taking ideology out of the classroom, not putting it in”. Smith asked what the next steps are in the curriculum review and when Albertans can expect to see a draft K through 6 curriculum. Schulz said that the K to 6 curriculum is being refined to align with the ministerial order on student learning released in August. This week the draft K to 6 curriculum will go forward to the curriculum working groups, which will consist solely of teachers, for further review and refinement. Schulz concluded by stating that government will also begin engaging with academics and education system partners in this work, and in early 2021 will be releasing the draft for public input so parents and all Albertans can review it prior to piloting in September 2021.

COVID-19 in Schools, December 8

Sarah Hoffman (NDP) MLA for Edmonton-Glenora asked Minister of Children’s Services Rebecca Schulz about the new policy in schools addressing who is considered a “close contact”. She noted that teachers will have to try to recall how many minutes they spend close to people infected with COVID-19. Schulz said that the process is being refined so that teachers are not being forced to quarantine unnecessarily. She added that AHS is working hard to increase staffing for contact tracing for school-aged children so information can get to schools and families faster. Hoffman said that parents and principals are forced to do contract tracing instead and hundreds of thousands of students have been forced to abandon their classrooms. Schulz said that transmission in schools is low and accounts for just 1.1 per cent of COVID cases since September.

COVID-19 Protective Measures and Teachers, November 30

Sarah Hoffman (NDP) MLA for Edmonton-Glenora asked Minister of Children’s Services, Rebecca Schulz why grade 7-12 students are learning from home but teachers are still required to physically come in to school. She added that letters from multiple school districts say that this direction came from the Minister of Education. Schulz said that only 0.1 per cent of staff and students have tested positive for COVID-19 and the NDP continue to disrespect the advice of the CMOH. She concluded by stating that decision are made at the local level and government will continue to work with them on any decisions that are made.

Home Education and Teachers’ Work from Home, December 1

Mark Smith (UCP) MLA for Drayton Valley-Devon asked Minister of Children’s Services, Rebecca Schulz how government can ensure that students don’t fall behind now that grade 7-12 are learning online from home. Schulz said that this transition to at-home learning will not impact quality of learning for students. Smith asked what additional services are available for students with disabilities during the COVID pandemic. Schulz said that there is an exemption for students with disabilities to continue to have their education needs met in school, no matter what grade they are in. Smith asked if it is true that the Minister of Education is compelling grade 7-12 teachers to continue to go into schools. Schulz said that school authorities make the decisions around staffing arrangements.

School Re-entry Plan and Student Achievement, December 2

Sarah Hoffman (NDP) MLA for Edmonton-Glenora asked Minister of Children’s Services, Rebecca Schulz about the government’s “failed” school re-entry plan, noting that recent studies from the U of A have showed that student learning is suffering significantly during COVID-19. Schulz said that the article referred to references primarily K to 6 students and that’s why it’s so important that they stay in class. She noted that the re-entry plan put forward by the NDP was unrealistic both from a space as well as a funding perspective.

School Construction Capital Plan, December 3

Muhammad Yaseen (UCP) MLA for Calgary-North asked Finance Minister TravisToewswhennorth Calgary expect the construction of the high school to commence. Toews answered that the bids for the contractor will close on December 4, 2020, with a contract to be awarded on December 14, 2020. Construction is expected to start shortly thereafter and is expected to be complete the summer of 2023. It will be up to the board to determine an exact opening date.

Sourced by Mark Milne and Hannah Graham at the ATA, this post was compiled by Reuben Mahaffy, LPEO of Parkland Teachers Local 10.