Alberta Education has made the decision for children to return to in-class learning except for one high risk area.
The announcement was made on May 19 at 2:30 p.m. on the government’s Facebook page.
“I’m very happy to announce today that all students in kindergarten to grade 12 will return on May 25 to in-class learning following the long weekend,” Alberta Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said. “With the exception of one area, the entire region of the Municipality of Wood Buffalo, which includes Fort McMurray, all those students in K to 12 in this region will continue to learn at home for another week. With a targeted return to in person learning on May 31.”
The two-week shift to at-home learning has given the education system time to address the operational challenges caused by the rise of COVID-19 cases in the province.
“I’m pleased our two-week plan has been successful in nearly all areas of the province. Everyone has worked hard to stop the spike and I am confident all students will finish the remainder of the school year in the classroom. I want to thank all students, parents, teachers and staff for their efforts and flexibility as we work to keep students learning,” Minister LaGrange said.
All schools in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (public, Catholic, charter and independent) will continue at-home learning for an additional week. Case numbers in this region have not been trending downward at the same rate as in other regions, which means a higher likelihood of continued in-school operational challenges.
The robust health protocols that have been in place in schools will continue, including mask requirements, cohorts, screening for symptoms and seating arrangements. That’s in addition to the added layer of protection with more Albertans getting the COVID-19 vaccine, including school staff and students aged 12 and older.
The expansion of rapid screening testing at schools is also moving ahead as planned in Edmonton, Calgary, Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie and Lethbridge, and in other communities where needed, starting next week. School divisions in Edmonton and Calgary have been offered the opportunity to have testing teams available at select school sites before the return to in-person learning occurs. Rapid testing is another preventative layer against the spread of COVID-19 by quickly identifying people without symptoms who may have the virus. Education’s rapid testing team will work with school divisions on final school selection, logistics, consent process and scheduling.
To date, about 10,800 tests have been conducted in Edmonton and Calgary schools resulting in 44 preliminary positive results. Anyone with a positive screening test is asked to confirm the result by taking a lab-confirmed test at an AHS assessment centre. A positive result on a rapid test will mean that the staff or student will need to be in isolation for ten days from that date, unless the follow-up test through AHS is negative, in which case they can return to school.