Alberta NDP lays out alternative plan for school relaunch
'Albertans have repeatedly told us that childrens’ safety must be a top priority'
The Alberta NDP unveiled Thursday what it calls an alternative to the government's school relaunch plan, which the opposition party says isn't sufficiently funded to ensure student and staff safety.
Earlier this week, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange announced that the province's 750,000 students will go back to "near-normal learning" in the new school year.
The government's guide for school re-entry under Scenario 1 has several specific recommendations, including cohorting classes where possible, implementing social distancing techniques, staggering breaks and class times as well as drop-off and pickup times and locations, and implementing assigned seating on school buses.
But the opposition NDP says they have heard from thousands of Albertans who say they're worried about how they can return to school safely.
"COVID-19 is going to be a persistent threat to our education system throughout the year, so we need to ensure that our schools will be funded sufficiently and prepared to deal with the risks," said NDP Leader Rachel Notley.
The party says it has produced 15 recommendations — based partly on feedback from Albertans in an online survey — that would cost $1 billion to implement.
Among the measures the NDP is proposing are:
- Have a provincewide cap of 15 students per classroom (and hiring the staff necessary to accomplish that).
- Create a best-practices guideline to limit student travel between classrooms.
- Hire additional custodial staff to ensure schools are cleaned thoroughly and constantly.
- Rehire more than 20,000 educational support staff laid off at the outset of the pandemic.
- Ensure that students riding buses are grouped by family cohort where possible or classroom cohort where family members are not on the same bus.
"Governing is about choices and priorities. Albertans have repeatedly told us that childrens' safety must be a top priority. While these recommendations come with a cost, the consequences of pretending things can operate normally without consequence will be far more costly," said NDP education critic Sarah Hoffman.
The party plans to submit the recommendations to Premier Jason Kenney.