Calgary

Excitement, trepidation as children go back to school in Calgary

As Alberta school children went back to class Monday morning, parents dropping them off at at Catholic school in Calgary were of mixed minds about the resumption of in-person learning.

'There’s got to be a level of trust,' said one Calgary parent

Alberta primary and secondary students resumed in-person classroom instruction on Jan. 11. (CBC)

As Alberta school children went back to class Monday morning, parents dropping them off at at Catholic elementary and junior high school were of mixed minds about the resumption of in-person learning.

In November, the province shifted junior and senior high students to learning at home while elementary-age students remained at school in person.

At St. Vincent de Paul School in northwest Calgary, some parents were of mixed minds about their kids returning to class on Monday.

Parent Solang Duon said she was feeling 50-50 about sending her children back.

"I was hoping they would stay a little bit longer due to COVID, because we don't know," she said. "I was worried, to be honest."

Another mother who spoke to CBC News said her children weren't worried but she was, at least somewhat.

'I think it's OK'

"I think it's OK. But still, there is a kind of worry," said Chandlee Jacob.

"They are doing the best thing here, that's what I feel. Teachers are taking care."

Ronnie Olstad said it was a good break but he's confident the right precautions are in place.

"And last week, too, the school did an amazing job online. Our daughter kind of got a little energy from it, changing it up. But everybody's excited that everybody's back and we're ready to go," he said.

"I mean, we're not doctors or scientists, so you kind of have to trust the people that are making the recommendations, and they're saying that it's safe, so there's got to be a level of trust there. And so far, it's probably been the healthiest fall and winter that the kids have ever experienced." 

"We might be overdoing the sanitizer a little bit, but it's definitely keeping the colds away," he added.

According to Alberta's chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, it is safe now to resume in-school classroom instruction.

At a COVID-19 update last week, she said most of the COVID cases in schools came from outside.

"Our data indicates that the current school model in place is largely effective at limiting in-school transmission," she said.

But the union that represents teachers says it needs more support from the province. The Alberta Teachers' Association (ATA) put out a statement saying teachers, students and families deserve to be better protected. 

"There is a swath of measures that would help make schools safer and help to keep them open longer that the government continues to ignore," said ATA president Jason Schilling.

"Government officials continue to view the return to school as a huge success, and I cannot agree. Teachers and other school staff have worked themselves ragged to make education as safe as it can be and they deserve all the credit. I just wish they were fully supported." 

The union is calling for reduced class sizes for greater distancing, as well as more substitute teachers and educational assistants.

With files from Andrew Brown, Colleen Underwood.

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