By Jaxon McGinn
Local Journalism Initiative reporter
Sunny South News
While some parents are relieved that students in Grades K-12 are returning to classes after an extended holiday break, many say they are concerned and frustrated about unclear instructions from the Alberta government on how it plans to contain a surge in COVID-19 infections classrooms caused by the Omicron variant.
The province had an almost 40 per cent positivity rate last week. Education Minister Adriana LaGrange has promised thousands of test kits will be delivered to students and parents over the next few days but has left it up to schools to report and track infections.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health, has said a return to in-person learning is critical and necessary for students’ mental wellness.
“We know the COVID infection has a low but not zero risk for children. We also know in-person learning is critically important for many kids’ educational and social development and provides a sense of stability and normalcy in these challenging times,” she said last week.
“We’re asking everyone to ensure that masking continues to be in place prior to the Christmas break, that they’re wearing masks in congregated areas or wearing a mask when they’re moving around classrooms in a close contact area. And then, of course, going back to what we’ve always been doing which is ensuring that schools are cleaned in high contact points regularly,” said Dave Driscoll superintendent of Palliser School Division.
Many schools in southern Alberta have said they anticipate struggling once again to find teachers to fill in for those who can’t come in due to illness.
“I think there’s a mixture of both. Some parents are comfortable sending their kids back into the school year, but at the same point, some parents are nervous and they choose to be online, so it’s a mixture of both,” added Driscoll.
“It would look a little different at each site. If a student doesn’t feel conformable coming back, the principal would have a conversation with the parents on what is available for them, which may mean they choose to go on our online learning system,” added Driscoll.
For further information, you can visit the Government of Alberta website at alberta.ca.