Calgary

Alberta parents and teachers protest provincial re-entry plans, call for smaller class sizes

Co-ordinated rallies across the province on Friday saw parents, teachers and advocates demanding a change of course as students get ready to head back to school this fall.

Small groups gathered outside MLA offices across the province on Friday

Alberta teachers, parents and advocates rallied across the province on Friday against provincial school reopening plans, including at the office of Infrastructure Minister Prasad Panda. (Stephanie Rousseau/Justin Pennell/CBC)

Co-ordinated rallies across the province on Friday saw parents, teachers and advocates demanding a change of course as students get ready to head back to school this fall.

The protests, held outside more than two dozen MLA offices across Alberta, were organized to pressure the province into implementing smaller class sizes amidst the pandemic.

Stephen Yanover, a high school teacher in Calgary, was protesting outside Health Minister Tyler Shandro's constituency office in Calgary.

"It is anger. It is frustration. It is disgust," Yanover said. "It's just, you know … they're doing nothing. They're not listening to anybody."

The school year is set to begin the first week of September. Mask use is required for all staff and students from Grade 4 to 12 in the province, while all students and staff in Calgary's public system and the Catholic school district will need to cover up.

But even with the safety measures announced, many teachers — including junior high teacher Cheryl Ruttle — worry there won't be enough room in schools to physically distance. 

"In order to do that, we need funding from the government. They're the only ones who can do that, who can put the resources into place to be able to do that," Ruttle said. "And so we'd really like to see some … resources put back into classrooms."

Municipal Affairs Minister Kaycee Madu came out of his office on Friday to talk with the protesters who had gathered outside. (CBC Edmonton)

In Edmonton, Municipal Affairs Minister Kaycee Madu came out of his office to talk with the protesters who had gathered outside.

"We have put forward a school re-entry plan that is based on the best possible advice of our health-care officials," Madu said. 

"If the medical experts come forward with a different plan, we will pursue that plan. At this point in time, that has not been the case."

The protests came two days after the Alberta Teachers' Association made a request for the first day of school to be pushed back until after Labour Day.

Liz Buchanan, who has two kids going into Grade 4 and Grade 10, says she's concerned there won't be enough funding to provide sufficiently small class sizes this fall. (Stephanie Rousseau/CBC)

Alberta's ministry of education released a statement today that suggests it is up to school boards to change their own reopening timelines — something ATA president Jason Schilling said he isn't confident will happen.

"I know when I speak to teachers and principals across the province, a lot has been indicating they need more time to sit down and look at the guidelines and protocols around COVID-19, and how that's impacted their schools," Schilling said.

"By downloading that on school boards, it means school boards will ultimately make that decision."

With files from Lucie Edwardson and Hala Ghonaim

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