Province announces most students will return to school as planned

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange announced today that Alberta K to 12 students will return to in-person learning after the long weekend.

“The education reset has been very successful,” she said.

Before closing schools back on May 4, rising Covid-19 cases in school communities were creating operational pressures in schools, particularly the availability of substitute teachers and bus drivers.

Twelve per cent of all Alberta teachers and students had been self-isolating due to Covid exposure and over 6,000 positive cases had been identified before the break; now, only 2.2 per cent are isolating and cases sit at just over 1,000.

The dramatic improvement makes the education minister confident in-person learning can continue to the end of the year. All previous protocols such as masking, cohorts and symptom screening will continue. Rapid testing is also being made available in Edmonton, Calgary, Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie and Lethbridge, with additional units opening in other communities next week.

Student athletic and performance activities are still restricted.

Despite the overall improvement provincially, all schools in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, which includes Fort McMurray, will continue with virtual learning another week as case numbers had not been trending downward as much as other areas.

Overall, Minister LaGrange thanked teachers, staff, students and parents — especially those with younger children — for their sacrifice to make at-home learning work.

“I understand that it has been a challenging two weeks,” she said. “I sincerely appreciate all the efforts of everyone in our school system and in our school communities for your continued dedication to supporting students’ learning during a global pandemic. I know it hasn’t been easy, and I thank you so much for all that you are doing.”

The latest Covid-19 update can be viewed online at http://bit.ly/May_19-Covid19.

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TORONTO STAR