Calgary

Calgary teacher says she's 'terrified' about heading back to school this fall

Hilary ​​​​​​Astolfi, a Grade 2 teacher at King George School in northwest Calgary, was preparing her class lists in June to discover 27 kids were scheduled to arrive in her classroom this fall.

Grade 2 teacher Hilary Astolfi says the fear has prompted her to create a will

Hilary Alstofi is among many teachers weighing their options, including quitting her job as an elementary school teacher. 0:37

Hilary ​​​​​​Astolfi, a Grade 2 teacher at King George School in northwest Calgary, was preparing her class lists in June to discover 27 kids were scheduled to arrive in her classroom this fall.

"We're being asked to socially distance where we can. It's just not possible in my classroom," Astolfi said.

"We want to be in classes with students, but I'm just not sure that it's safe to do so right now."

Astolfi has taught for more than a decade, but said she, like many of her colleagues, is afraid to go back to school. That fear has led Astolfi, and some of her fellow teachers, to consider the bigger picture.

"I don't have a will. So we're going to get on that," she said. "Because, you know, what if something happens? [What if] we bring it home to our families?

"Like, that's the scariest part, is the uncertainty in not knowing."

The province's plan to reopen schools has been met with concern by some Alberta teachers and parents.

When Alberta students head back into K-12 classrooms this fall, they will be required to wear masks, but some parent advocates have said such measures don't go far enough.

The government's back-to-school plan requires masks for grades 4 to 12, meaning Astolfi's students don't fall under the mandate.

"We continue to follow the expert medical advice of our chief medical officer of health, who approved our school re-entry plan," reads a statement from a spokesperson for the minister of education.

"We will continue to work with [Dr. Deena] Hinshaw and our education system, and will adjust our guidelines as necessary."

The province placed two orders for 1.7 million masks, valued at a total of $4.2 million, with Old Navy and IFR Workwear. Old Navy will make 90 per cent of those masks.

On Wednesday, Hinshaw said all Alberta teachers and school staff should be tested for COVID-19 before schools reopen.

But Astolfi said her fears will persist unless changes are implemented to class sizes.

"It's not just about the students in the classroom. It's about the greater impact, and the spreading of [the virus]," she said. "I've definitely been thinking about quitting. Is it worth my life?"

With files from Erin Collins and Shannon Scott

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