2020 School Re-opening FAQ 

Last updated: 2020 08 28

Association staff are working quickly to prepare updated information for members regarding the return to schools in September. Please check this page frequently for updates over the coming days.

Questions about a specific situation you are facing may require one-to-one advice. Please contact Barnett House for advice at 1-800-232-7208.

My employer is requesting that I prepare 10 days of lesson plans in the event that I am required to isolate or are diagnosed with COVID 19. Am I required to do so?

The Association’s position is that teachers should prepare lesson plans for substitute teachers until they are on the grid, at which point, the teacher replacing becomes responsible for planning classes. 

I am being asked by my employer to prepare 5 days of emergency lesson plans and 5 days of cohort plans? What is my responsibility to do so?

Teachers typically need emergency sub plans for one day, because it is an emergency. After which, the substitute teacher replacing can plan accordingly.  In terms of the cohort plans, teachers should plan lessons for substitute teachers until they are on the grid.

Can someone supervise my class while I teach from home?

It is not advisable to have a non-certificated person in a classroom while the teacher teaches from home. According to the Code of Professional Conduct, the teacher may delegate specific and limited aspects of instructional activity to noncertificated personnel, provided that the teacher supervises and directs such activity. If an educational assistant or classroom supervisor is in the room, this person is not able to deal with issues of classroom management, student difficulties with learning or any duties normally completed by a teacher. They can simply supervise students and hand out materials. If there was an issue in the classroom, they would need to call school administration for assistance. (2020 08 13)

I have been asked to livestream /record my lessons for the students at home. Is this a good idea?

It is reasonable for the division to ask teachers to have their lessons either recorded or live-streamed for students. However, teachers must be properly trained in how to incorporate live-streaming technology into their teaching and teacher safety is essential for those who take part. In either circumstance, the division is required to ensure safety of personal information of staff and students. The Association has concerns and does not promote the idea of live-streaming or recorded lessons as this has the potential to stunt lesson delivery and genuine interactions with students.

Some of these concerns include who may be recording the lesson, unauthorized recording and use, recording access and storage and for how long, parental consent for students to be live-streamed from and into private residences, student discipline matters, and technology issues. School divisions should create policies and clearly communicate them to students and parents in order to help diminish these concerns. (2020 08 28)

With the announcement regarding COVID testing for teachers, do I need to get tested?

On August 12, Minister LaGrange announced increased testing availability for teachers and school staff, and encouraged teachers and staff to get tested prior to school opening. At this point, the testing is voluntary. If you are directed by your employer to be tested, you may need to be compensated by your employer for your time and travel. Further, once your results are available, your employer can ask whether or not you are fit for work, not whether or not you tested positive or negative. (2020 08 13)

I have been asked by parents to teach their children at home this fall as they are not returning to school. I will be paid for this. Is this OK?

If a teacher is not currently under contract, or substitute teaching, they are not active members of the ATA and are not bound by the Code of Professional Conduct. As a result, they can teach these students at home and their professional conduct would be regulated by Alberta Education Regulations.

However, if a teacher is under contract, and this includes a teacher on leave or substitute teaching, then articles 6 and 7 of the Code of Professional Conduct apply:

6. The teacher may not accept pay for tutoring a pupil in any subjects in which the teacher is responsible for giving classroom instruction to that pupil.

7. The teacher may not take advantage of a professional position to profit from the sale of goods or services to or for pupils in the teacher's charge.

Teachers should not be actively looking to teach students at home or online and getting paid for doing so. This could lead to a teacher being found guilty of unprofessional conduct. (2020 08 11)

What is the requirement for personal protective equipment (PPE)?

As of August 4, 2020 wearing masks in school will be mandatory for all Grades 4 to 12 students and all staff. At this time, wearing masks will be optional for students in Kindergarten to Grade 3. Teachers and students will be provided with two reusable masks from the Alberta government. Should a teacher prefer a different face mask (for example higher quality) than what is provided or choose to wear a face shield in addition to a face mask, this would be at the teacher’s expense. (2020 08 04)
Government of Alberta News release  

Are teachers expected to plan both online and in person lessons for those students who quarantine or whose parents refuse to send them to school?

Teachers cannot be expected to separately plan lessons for, instruct or assess both students in the classroom and those who choose to obtain their learning exclusively at home. In situations where students are unable to return to school, the schools will need to work with parents to find alternate delivery methods for these students. Direct instruction augmented by student completion of tasks outside classroom attendance can be accommodated. Just like students who miss school for illness and vacation, teachers should be prepared to send home curricular activities or assignments arising from direct instruction much as they would in those instances. Teachers need to plan for in-school instruction. An expectation to fully plan for both in person and online instruction would be an unacceptable increase in expectations and workload for teachers.  (2020 07 29)

Will teachers be working from home in September?

On July 21, Alberta Education confirmed its school re-entry plan would go forward under “Scenario 1: in-school classes resume, near-normal operations with health measures.” (2020 07 22)

Given the ongoing COVID pandemic, do I have to return to work if I feel that it is unsafe?

COVID-19 is a workplace hazard. This is undeniable, particularly in the context of conventional congregated schooling. Like all workplace hazards, controls are needed to protect workers. Authorities must follow the hierarchy of hazard controls: physical barriers and other measures to eliminate the hazard, administrative protocols (like physical distancing and hand washing), and personal protective equipment (like masks/face shields and gloves). 

If, after adopting the best available hazard controls and following the chief medical officer’s protocols, the school authority determines that the work is not dangerous and no dangerous condition is present at the work site, the school authority can direct you to report to the school. In doing so, the employer would have to provide reason(s) why, in the employer’s opinion, the work does not constitute a danger to health and safety or a dangerous condition is not present. 

If you receive a directive to return to work at a school, it is a lawful order of the board and you must comply if it is reasonable. You may, however, lodge a formal protest as provided for in Article 8 of the ATA Code of Professional Conduct.

Changes made to the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act in June 2018 require the promotion and maintenance of the highest degree of physical, psychological and social well-being of workers. Further, in Part 4 of the revised OHS Act, a worker has the right to refuse dangerous work if, on reasonable grounds, the worker believes a dangerous condition exists at the work site or the work constitutes a danger to health and safety. Please see Right to Refuse Work for more information. (2020 07 17)

I have an illness, either physically or psychologically, and am unfit to be at work. What should I do?

You should access the sick leave entitlements in your collective agreement. 

If you have a diagnosed medical condition that places you at risk of injury or illness if you are required to return to the work site, this also must be taken into consideration.

  • If there has been no voluntary disclosure of a medical condition with supporting medical documentation outlining the required medical restrictions, and all hazard controls have been implemented and the work site is deemed safe, but you still do not want to return to work, employers may be in a position to terminate employment.
  • If you do provide medical documentation outlining your required medical restrictions, the duty to accommodate under the Human Rights Act is triggered, and as such, a conversation would be warranted.
  • If you have outstanding issues or need further advice, please contact Barnett House at 1-800-232-7208. (2020 07 23) 

Because of COVID-19, I don’t have access to childcare and am unable to teach. What should I do?

The employer has a duty to accommodate for family status, which is a protected ground under the Human Rights Act. If a teacher is in a situation as a result of COVID-19 where they do not have appropriate child care, they may have cause to be accommodated by being granted a leave of absence under their particular collective agreement. (2020 07 17)

If a teacher tests positive for COVID-19 are they required to quarantine for 2-3 weeks? Is their sick leave covered and paid?

If a teacher tests positive for COVID, they will remain on sick leave until such time they are healthy and able to return to work.

Individuals who may have been exposed to COVID are required to self-isolate. These individuals may still be required to work from home as they are not sick. If they choose to not work, their leave may be unpaid depending upon the collective agreement. (2020 07 21)

What happens when a student or staff members in our school tests positive for COVID?

If a student or staff tests positive for COVID-19, a public health team will investigate to determine when symptoms developed and support the school to minimize transmission.

While each case will be addressed based on its unique circumstances, it is anticipated that in most cases only the group of students and staff who came in close contact will likely be required to stay home for 14 days, and not the entire school population.

Parents will be notified if a case of COVID-19 is confirmed at school and public health officials will contact those who were in close contact with that person.

The Alberta Government’s Public Health Orders page has more information. (2020 07 23)  

What if someone who lives in the same house as a teacher tests positive? Does that teacher now need to take 14 days off of work to quarantine? Is that time off covered and paid?

Public health officials will provide direction and guidance for people who are close contacts of a positive case. A teacher who may have been exposed should get tested and may need to remain isolated for 14 days. In the meantime, they can continue to work from home. If the test result comes back positive, they would then be on sick leave. (2020 07 23) 

Substitutes teach in multiple schools. What if they are diagnosed with COVID-19? Do all the kids in each school now have to quarantine and get tested?

Public health officials will provide direction and guidance to people who are close contacts of a positive case. Public health officials will work with school authorities to quickly identify cases, identify close contacts and create isolation measures when needed. They will also work with school authorities to provide follow-up recommendations. (2020 07 23)

What happens when there is a positive case in the school? Will teachers be notified if a student in their class tests positive?

If a student shows symptoms at school, parents should pick up the child immediately. The student will be asked to wear a non-medical mask if able to do so safely, and be isolated in a separate room or kept at least 2 metres away from others. Parents should ensure the school has their most up-to-date contact information.

  • The zone medical officer of health will work with school authorities to quickly:
    • identify cases
    • identify close contacts
    • create isolation measures when needed
  • The zone medical officer of health will work with school authorities to provide follow-up recommendations.
  • A COVID-19 case will not automatically lead to school closure. It could be that only the group of students and staff who came in close contact will be required to stay home for 14 days.
  • Parents will be notified if a case of COVID-19 is confirmed at school and public health officials will contact those who were in close contact with the person.
  • Each school authority will support students and staff to learn or work at home if they are required to self-isolate.  (2020 07 23)

As a teacher, will I be required to disinfect high contact areas in my classroom or school? What about student desks?

Your primary role is to teach your students. However, teachers can be asked to disinfect their immediate work area. Regular ongoing wiping down of high-touch surfaces should be done by the school custodian, in order to minimize the risk in schools under OHS, Boards are responsible to ensure proper cleaning is being done. (2020 07 29)

As a substitute teacher, can I work at any school?

While there has been some preliminary discussion about substitute teachers and where they can work, there has been no decision or directive limiting substitute teachers only to certain schools. (2020 07 22) 

If I suspect my colleague has COVID-19, what should I do? Tell my principal?

There will be a heightened awareness in schools this fall whenever someone coughs, sneezes or has the sniffles. These symptoms could also be a result of allergies or other medical conditions. Teachers should follow the Code of Professional Conduct and speak with their colleagues about their concerns before speaking with the principal if it is necessary to do so. (2020 07 22)