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ATA president says Alberta needs to hire more subs after COVID-19 staffing issue forces class cancellation

Last Updated Oct 20, 2020 at 3:12 pm MDT

FILE PHOTO. An empty classroom at a Calgary high school. (PHOTO: Jo Horwood, CityNews)

CALGARY – The Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) says there needs to be serious discussions about expanding the roster of substitute teachers after a Calgary school had cancel class due to a lack of staff.

On Monday, Coventry Hills School was closed to in-class learning because of a staffing shortage related to a COVID-19 outbreak.

The school reopened on Tuesday, but ATA President Jason Schilling says school boards and health officials have to be ready to pivot quickly.

“We’ve definitely been advocating to have a standard practice across the province when it comes to… issues like this,” he said.

“I know sometimes it can be difficult in terms of the context of the school or community, but the more that people can know this information upfront the better prepared they can be.”

Schilling says he’s been hearing about substitute teacher shortages through the province for the past six weeks.

RELATED: ‘Gravely concerned’: Teachers union worries about shortage of substitute teachers during pandemic

He adds the government needs to be more clear about the protocols if the high case counts force kids back online for an extended time.

“What are the protocols when we switch from scenario one to scenario two? Or to moving everybody online?” he said.

“We know that there’s a big impact on families and teachers and students to have these decisions happen really quickly. The more that we can be aware of the protocols are and the decisions that they’ll make on why they’ll close a school and what that will look like, the better.”

He also expects more of temporary school closures will happen as we head into winter, which is why its important schools, boards, and government, have a ready-made plan to alert parents and students when the situation at the school changes.

“If kids aren’t coming to school the next day, will they all have access to technology if they move online for instruction for a few days?” he said.

“If they don’t know to take this stuff home, how are they supposed to be ready to learn?”

-with files from Sandra Prusina