Calgary

Calgary teachers expected in schools despite work-from-home mandate

With a large swath of Alberta teachers delivering lessons online, the Alberta Teachers Association says teachers are confused about why new COVID-19 measures — including a work-from-home mandate — are not being applied to school staff and teachers when possible.

The ATA says teachers feel they are getting mixed messages from the province

The ATA said teachers — especially those teaching Grade 7 to 12 students who were all moved online last week — feel they've got the ability to work at home, but still aren't allowed. (Shutterstock)

With a large swath of Alberta teachers delivering lessons online, the Alberta Teachers Association (ATA) says teachers are confused about why new COVID-19 measures — including a work-from-home mandate — are not being applied to school staff and teachers when possible.

ATA president, Jason Schilling says under these continuously changing and increasingly stressful months, teachers continue to do all they can to meet the needs of their students. 

"But, they feel like there's mixed messages that are being sent by government to work from home where you can and then be told, 'except if you work in school, you need to work in your building,'" he said.

Schilling said teachers — especially those teaching Grade 7 to 12 students who were all moved online last week — feel they've got the ability to work at home, but still are not allowed.

"I hear from a lot of teachers who feel like almost degraded in the sense that there's just one set of rules for everybody, and then there's the exception to the rule of the folks that work at schools," he said.

"They want to be at school. They want to be working with their students, but they also want to be safe. We want to see community spread down so that we can make sure that schools are open."

Schilling said the ATA is pushing the province to talk to all education stakeholders first about these things.

"And then let's make a plan that we can execute so that we can make sure that everybody is safe, because that is our number one priority, is to make sure the kids are safe, teachers are safe, their families are safe, but learning also continues," he said.

"I think if we could have a government that was a little bit more proactive in that way, we could certainly save a lot of stress for everybody involved."

He adds that teachers who work with children with special needs in unique settings understand that it is necessary for them to remain in schools with students. 

In letters to staff, both the CBE and Catholic District say teachers are expected in school buildings until at least winter break.

"Staff are expected to report to work at their school or work site unless your principal or supervisor has previously approved otherwise," wrote CBE chief superintendent, Christopher Usih.

Both boards said later this week they will announce direction and possibilities for working from home in the new year.

The school districts said these decisions were made based off direction and clarification given by education minister, Adriana LaGrange. 

"These changes do not include additional measures for schools," LaGrange wrote in a letter to school boards Tuesday.

In a written statement the province says whether or not teachers work from home or their school is a judgment that's made by school boards.

Alberta Health said it does not violate the work-from-home order if an employer determines it's essential for an employee to come in to the workplace.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lucie Edwardson

Journalist

Lucie Edwardson is a reporter with CBC Calgary, currently focused on bringing you stories related to education in Alberta. In 2018 she headed a pop-up bureau in Lethbridge, Alta. Her experience includes newspaper, online, TV and radio. Follow her on Twitter @LucieEdwardson

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