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ATA says teachers need to be protected in return to class

Personal protection equipment is seen on the teacher's desk in classroom in preparation for the new school year at the Willingdon Elementary School in Montreal, on Wednesday, August 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

CALGARY (660 NEWS) – With the announcement of schools returning to in-person classes on Monday, the Alberta Teachers Association (ATA) and Support Our Students Alberta is reacting to the move by the province.

President of the ATA, Jason Schilling, says they prefer being in the classroom as the most ideal situation, but community transmission of COVID-19 remains high.

“We’ve been advocating with government to strengthen the return to work plan, the return to school plan, but we’ve not seen government make any efforts to move towards some of the things we’ve been suggesting.”

He adds if schools are open, teachers need to be high on the priority list for vaccinations after health and long-term care workers.

“People working in schools will be working with the largest population who won’t be vaccinated, and those are children under the age of 16,” said Schilling.

“So if government sees schools being open as a priority, they need to look at vaccinating those who are working.”

He says discussions with the government have been limited, but what they’re asking for isn’t far-fetched.

“We’ve been talking to government all along about reducing class sizes for our largest classes, especially ones that are in the 30s and the 40s. Let’s get those so we can get more social distancing for those students, teachers, and staff working in those buildings.”

On the other hand, many teachers and families are facing challenges switching back and forth from online to in-person learning.

“They’re doing an amazing job but it’s also highly stressful and tiring through the course of the day. I mean, school is just busy to begin with.”

“That position, on and off, on and off, has been a real challenge,” added Schilling.