Alberta students, parents, and teachers now know what back-to-school is going to look like in September.

On Tuesday afternoon (July 21), Education Minister Adriana LaGrange was joined by Premier Jason Kenney and Chief Medical Health Officer, Dr. Deena Hinshaw to unveil the UCP government’s plans for the fall.

Schools will be ready to welcome students under scenario 1, which is near-normal daily operations with health measures.

Minister LaGrange says the provincial government is determined to do everything it can to safely return students, teachers and staff to school. “I appreciate the input and support of school authorities across the province, as well as our education partners, in developing and refining our school re-entry plan. We are providing clear and detailed guidelines and a re-entry tool kit so everyone can do their part and prepare for a safe return to school.”

That re-entry tool kit to prepare parents and students for what to expect in the new school year. The tool kit includes videos for students explaining some of the health measures, a guide for parents, frequently asked questions, school posters, a self-screening questionnaire in multiple languages, and links to health guidelines.

Back in June, LaGrange said would have to place for one of three scenarios for the 2020-21 school year:

(1) In-school classes resume (near-normal operations with health measures)
(2) In-school classes partially resume with additional health measures
(3) At home learning continues (in-school classes are cancelled)
Under scenario 1, Alberta 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.

    COVID-19 cases at school

If a student or staff tests positive for COVID-19, a public health team will investigate to determine when symptoms developed and support the school to minimize transmission.

While each case will be addressed based on its unique circumstances, it is anticipated that in most cases only the group of students and staff who came in close contact will likely be required to stay home for 14 days, and not the entire school population.

Parents will be notified if a case of COVID-19 is confirmed at school and public health officials will contact those who were in close contact with that person.

    COVID-19 outbreaks in schools

If there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in a community or school, health officials will work with Alberta Education and impacted school authorities to make any decision to potentially transition to partial in-class learning or at-home learning. Decisions will be based on multiple factors including the number of cases in a community or school and the risk of ongoing transmission.

(Files from Government of Alberta)

Written by Pat Siedlecki, MyLethbridgeNow.com