Alberta students will be heading back to the classroom for in-school learning this fall, the provincial government announced Tuesday.
In-school classes will resume with near-normal daily operations with added health measures when class is back in session this September.
“I’m proud of our comprehensive plan that supports the safe return to daily in-school learning,” Premier Jason Kenney said.
“The return of more than 750,000 students to near-normal learning in the new school year is indicative of Alberta’s continued recovery as we work to relaunch our economy and return to our regular everyday lives.”
Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said the province will do everything it can to safely return students, teachers and staff to school.
The province launched a school re-entry tool kit to prepare students and parents for what they can expect in the upcoming school year.
The 2020-21 school re-entry plan outlines that schools will implement a number of public health measures, which include frequent cleaning of surfaces, placing hand sanitizers at school entrances and classrooms, grouping students in cohorts and planning the school day to allow for physical distancing, which could include staggering start times for classes, recesses and lunches.
Additional public health measures may be established prior to September on the advice of the chief medical officer of health in consultation with the education system, according to the province.
In addition, students, staff, parents and school visitors will be expected to use a self-screening questionnaire daily to determine whether they can enter the school.
The decision comes after the province said in mid-June it would make a decision about the upcoming school year by Aug. 1.
At that time, the education minister said the goal was to get students back to class in September and laid out three possible scenarios for what school might look like for students.
The first scenario — the one being implemented this fall — sees students return to class normally, with regular class sizes and additional health measures. Those measures would include additional cleaning and disinfecting, routine screening for illness, a stay-at-home policy for staff and students who are ill. Physical distancing would be required wherever possible. Students may be grouped in cohorts, and rooms could be reorganized to create more space.
The second scenario would see in-school classes only partially resumed due to additional health requirements. In that second scenario, classes could be limited in size to 15 people with strict two-metre social distances.
The third, most restrictive option, would see students remain at home and continue online learning.
Kenney announced on Sunday, March 15 that K-12 schools in Alberta would close amid rising cases of COVID-19. Schools would not reopen for the remainder of the school year, with students continuing their learning online.
Tuesday’s school announcement comes as cases of COVID-19 have surged in Alberta in the last few days.
On Monday, Alberta confirmed 368 new cases of COVID-19 and three death related to the disease over the previous three days.
On July 17, there were 165 new cases – the largest jump in cases over a one-day period since May 1, when 218 new cases were confirmed. On July 18, 106 new cases were confirmed and 97 cases were confirmed on July 19.
On Tuesday, Alberta announced 141 new cases were identified on July 20.
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