Calgary

Teachers from Calgary's two biggest school boards given nod to work from home

Teachers at Calgary's two major school boards are now being advised they're able to work from home in an attempt to flatten the curve of COVID-19.

Teachers reported for work on Monday despite classes being cancelled across the province

Teachers from the Calgary Board of Education and Calgary Catholic School District are joining the ranks of Albertans who are able to work from home amidst the COVID-19 outbreak. (Remo Casilli/Reuters)

Teachers at Calgary's two major school boards are now being advised they're able to work from home in an attempt to flatten the curve of COVID-19.

On Sunday, the province announced that classes for kindergarten to Grade 12 schools throughout the province were cancelled indefinitely and kids were not to attend school the following day.

But on Monday, teachers at both major boards were told to attend work at school as usual.

'Teachers are in their classes'

"Teachers are in their classes. Teachers are working with their principals. Teachers are working with their colleagues," said Calgary Board of Education superintendent Diane Yee at a press conference held Monday. "This is four days before our non-instructional day and then the break."

Many teachers expressed their concerns over working in small groups and in attending meetings to CBC News and on social media. 

"The prime minister and our premier have declared a state of emergency, requesting people stay at home and do their work from home if they can," said one educator who CBC News agreed to keep anonymous over fears of repercussions at work.

"Students aren't at the schools, yet were still asked to go in … a lot of the time we're just spending the days closely working in proximity to each other and we're gathering in groups, which is not the correct thing to do in this circumstance."

On Tuesday evening, the educator said teachers had been putting pressure on the CBE to shut down schools and allow teachers to work from home, but felt those pleas weren't being heard.

'They're worried about safety'

Jason Schilling with the Alberta Teachers' Association said teachers need clear messaging from the province and their jurisdictions during the chaos of COVID-19.

"What are the expectations for teachers to be in school or not be in school?" he said.

Jason Schilling is president of the Alberta Teachers' Association. (Josee St-Onge/CBC)

Schilling said like most Albertans, teachers are worried about their health and safety.

"They're worried about safety. They're worried about the safety of themselves — and how that might impact their family," he said. "And I know some teachers have concerns about childcare issues."

In an emailed statement sent Wednesday, the CBE said they are committed to protecting the health and safety of its staff and communities.

"We have created temporary work from home guidelines that take effect March 18. These guidelines will provide employees who are able to complete their work from home the opportunity to do so during these very challenging times," said a board spokesperson.

"Specifically, we have determined that at this time all school-based staff, both teachers and support staff — with the exception of at least a principal, a secretary and a custodian — may work from home."

The Calgary Catholic School District had given a similar directive to their teachers in a letter Tuesday. 

"Calgary Catholic has decided that staff will be able to work from home effective March 18 to reduce the density of people in our buildings and to reduce the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus," said Bryan Szumlas, chief superintendent with CCSD.

"It is important to note that schools remain open, but classes are suspended until further notice. Principals are working with their staff to ensure student programming continues. We are still in the process of determining what learning in this situation looks like and more information will be forthcoming."

In an interview with CBC News on Wednesday, Szumlas said teachers had been very patient with the board and administration during a rapidly evolving situation.

"They have been very positive and supportive during this time," he said. "This is changing minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day."

Szumlas said all CCSD schools will be kept open, staffed with skeleton crews of administration on a rotating basis.

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

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

now