School reopening plans hazy
Education Minister Adriana LaGrange outlined three potential paths for how Alberta’s students will resume their education in September, but she was scant on the details.
Students could either be returning to in-class education, getting used to schools with PPE requirements and physical distancing measures, or sticking with at-home learning.
But LaGrange offered no timelines for when schools and parents will know which path is chosen.
“The pandemic doesn’t follow our deadlines,” LaGrange told reporters.
Currently, 91 per cent of schools are offering online learning, 53 per cent of schools are emailing homework and 47 per cent are sending paper-based products home. Sixty thousand laptops and tablets have been provided to students who need them.
“This approach is working,” LaGrange stated.
The minister confirmed at-home learning will continue for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year. That’s in contrast to some other approaches, including in British Columbia, where hundreds of children of essential workers are in class and more may soon join them, but a full return isn’t expected until September.
When asked by reporters how parents who are returning to work under Phase 1 of the UCP’s reopening plan, which will launch May 14 assuming no spike in hospitalizations or ICU cases, are supposed to access child care, LaGrange said nothing has changed about refraining from in-school classes.
When it comes to school board funding levels — a contentious issue since the UCP was elected — LaGrange said every school division will see an increase in funding. According to the province, operational funding overall will increase from $6.7 billion in 2019-20 to approximately $6.8 billion in the 2020-21 school year.
However, the UCP’s school-funding plan relied heavily on own-source revenues, which schools earn through vending machine sales and facility rentals, among other things, and could see a downturn with students out of classrooms most of the semester.
Colin Aitchison, spokesperson for the minister, told AB Today in an emailed statement that school authority budgets are not due until the end of the month, so he could not comment on own-source revenue projects.