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Alberta will not delay start of school year

Last Updated Aug 21, 2020 at 8:20 pm MDT

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange speaks at St. Marguerite School in SE Calgary to update on the province's education curriculum review on Jan 29, 2020. (PHOTO: Tom Ross, 660 NEWS)

EDMONTON (660 NEWS) – Alberta Minister of Education Adriana LaGrange says the province will not be delaying the start of the 2020/21 school year, despite a request by the Alberta Teachers’ Association to wait until after Labour Day.

However, LaGrange says school boards can make these decisions on their own.

“While our re-entry plan, as written, already provides school boards with the ability to delay or stagger school start dates should they decide that is in their local best interest, I agreed to further engage with education partners and get their views on this ATA request,” said LaGrange.

“These partners remain confident, as do I, that the school re-entry plan already provides local school authorities with the autonomy and flexibility to ensure local needs are met and to prepare schools for a safe re-entry.”

LaGrange said she has also had the chance to review all planned re-entry dates for schools across the province.

“I see that time is clearly available to allow teachers to prepare for re-entry before their students arrive. These plans and timelines were created by school boards who continue to follow the expert medical advice of Alberta’s chief medical officer of health.”

The president of the Alberta Teacher’s Association (ATA) disagrees with the notion that there is enough time for schools to implement COVID protocols.

“I’m hearing from teachers and principles that they need time to sit down and work on the protocols together so that there is an understanding among everybody about what is happening,” Jason Schilling said.

“Some teachers only have two days in school before students come and they want to make sure that time is there.”

Schilling was frustrated to hear that it is now up to the school boards to decide if they should delay the start of the new year, saying the province is downloading the responsibility onto them.

“I think that school boards need to make sure that they’re listening to principals and teachers in their schools because I’m hearing from teachers and principals that they need more time,” he said.

The Calgary Board of Education (CBE) and the Calgary Catholic School District (CCSD) plan to implement a staggered return to school this year.

The CCSD will spread out its re-entry plan between Sept. 2-4 with the first day of curricular instruction beginning on Sept. 8.

The official start date for CBE schools is Sept. 1 with the board planning to stagger its re-entry during the first week in September.