EDMONTON (660 NEWS) – Alberta’s education minister is speaking after the Alberta NDP said she’s been hiding from the media.
Adriana LaGrange spoke with 660 NEWS Monday saying that couldn’t be further from the truth.
“That’s absolutely ludicrous. That’s absolutely not — I’m doing what the minister of education has to do which is roughly 14-16 hours a day every day,” she told 660 NEWS.
As close to 50 #Alberta schools report at least one person with #COVID19, the @AlbertaNDP take a shot at the Education Minister, asking where in the province is @AdrianaLaGrange? @660NEWS has found her, and she says she's not hiding, she's working. #abpoli #ableg #yyc #yeg
— Saif Kaisar (@StaySaif) September 14, 2020
“I had two sod turnings (recently). One in St. Albert and one in the Castledown area in Edmonton and there was media at both of those events and I was happy to chat with the media and I’m always happy to chat with the media,” LaGrange said.
“I really know how important it is particularly at this time as schools reopen that parents and the community at large are able to have myself and others out there to answer their questions.”
She was also asked about the close to 50 schools that are reporting COVID-19 cases since the start of the school year.
She explained that, to the best of her knowledge, every single case was due to community spread outside of school and so far, it hasn’t spread from the classes or hallways.
“The one thing that I really need to stress, is that these cases that are appearing in our schools right now that have all been contracted, our understanding at this point, outside of school,” she said.
“Now, the way things are progressing, we know that the plan is working, that those cases as they’re being identified — every protocol that we put into place is being followed. AHS is, in fact, looking at every single case. They are tracking them, they are doing the contact tracing, they are contacting anyone who may have been in close contact with them, whether they’re staff members or students.”
LaGrange added that Alberta Health Services (AHS) is doing what it needs to do to contain the spread.
“The protocols that we have in place are working. (We are focussed) on the fact that we have a small number of schools (with cases) when you think in the fact that we have around 2,400 schools across this province,” LaGrange said.
The NDP said the minister needs to answer eight ‘pressing questions’:
• Why has she failed to appear at any daily updates during back-to-school when she has time for photo-ops and partisan events?
• Has the minister seen the videos of packed hallways in Calgary high schools, and what has she done in response?
• Has the minister visited any schools to see real conditions in actual classrooms?
• What is the total number of Alberta schools with confirmed cases, including small sites that cannot be disclosed by name for privacy reasons?
• When will the Government of Alberta website provide real-time, single-case-level reporting to the level of volunteer-run non-profit groups?
• Is she aware that some schools are still reporting that they don’t have any of the government-issued PPE?
• Can the minister provide an update on the inventory levels and distribution of masks and hand sanitizer to schools?
• When will the minister cap class sizes at 15, and act on the other recommendations of the Safe Schools, Successful Students report?
In response to the fact that some schools had allegedly reported not receiving any PPE, LaGrange told 660 NEWS that’s not the information she’s received.
“I have been in constant contact with the education partners, including the school boards and the college of Alberta School Superintendents. All of the PPE went out prior to school even starting. I have not been made aware that anyone has not received their PPE,” she said.
FULL INTERVIEW WITH 660 NEWS’ SAIF KAISAR:
LaGrange was also asked if she has visited any of the affected schools.
“Anyone who knows me knows that one of my favourite parts of being Minister of Education is going to schools and chat with students and teachers and go to talk to the local school boards. That being said, what the public health officials and the school divisions themselves have been saying is to avoid unnecessary visitors. At this point in time, I have not gone into any schools but when it is allowable, I am certainly open to going into a school.”
In response to the interview with 660 NEWS, Sarah Hoffman, the NDP Education Critic, sent the following statement:
“The minister should be answering for her bad decisions. Physical distancing is the best way to prevent transmission within schools. Minister LaGrange should have given schools the resources they need to make two-metre physical distancing possible.
“It’s a complete failure of leadership for the minister to attend photo-ops and partisan events, and then claim she’s too busy to see the impact of her choices in real classrooms and answer for her cuts.”
For our in-depth coverage on back to school, click here.