The health and safety of teachers, students, families and the broader community is of the utmost importance, and the Alberta Teachers’ Association is closely monitoring the evolving COVID-19 situation. Every effort will be made to keep this information up-to-date, understanding that the situation is evolving rapidly. The most current information will be found on the Government of Alberta website at https://www.alberta.ca/coronavirus-info-for-albertans.aspx.
ATA offices remain closed to the public. We are continuing to serve our members, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch. If you have questions that are not addressed here, please call the Association at 1-800-232-7208 (Edmonton) or 1-800-332-1280 (Calgary). See our contact page for a directory to all of our programs and services.
Links to current advisories:
With Teachers’ Conventions being virtual for 2021, am I required to go into school on those days?
No. The two days for teachers’ convention are listed in the Education Act under s205(1) as “2 days on which a teachers’ convention authorized by the Alberta Teachers’ Association is held”. These are days that are under the control of the Association. Teachers are encouraged to attend convention from home or from a location where stable internet connections exist. Teachers are also encouraged to download any convention material in advance to minimize bandwidth requirements during convention. While some employers may allow you to use the school for convention, that is up to you to decide. More convention information is available at ATA - Teachers' Conventions. (2020 12 09)
If a teacher travels outside the country, would the mandatory 14-day isolation requirement for International travelers be considered unpaid leave when they return?
Yes, the leave would be unpaid leave.
Some teachers have additional days off during their convention week and are considering leaving the province and attending convention virtually from their location.
If teachers leave the country, they need to isolate for 14 days upon their return.
The days missed would be unpaid leave.
The current International travel restrictions indicates that there is an “official global travel advisory in effect”. Albertans should follow all travel advisories. This advisory means:
- Avoid all non-essential travel outside Canada and all cruise ship travel.
Returning travelers must:
- within 72 hours of their return to Canada, secure a negative PCR Covid test;
- follow mandatory 14-day isolation requirements for international travelers;
- check recent domestic and international flights for confirmed cases; and
- monitor for symptoms.
Responsible travel within Alberta is permitted, including to second homes, vacation homes, hotel/commercial accommodations, campgrounds, and national and provincial parks.
Non-essential travel outside the province is not recommended. This recommendation will not be lifted until Stage 3 of Alberta's relaunch strategy.
While there is an International Border Testing Pilot Program currently in effect for those international travellers arriving directly into Calgary, teachers are still restricted from returning to work for, at minimum, an additional 7 to 9 days. Teachers need a follow up COVID test on day 6 or 7 following their return to Canada and must await these results prior to returning to work. (International Border Testing Pilot Program | Alberta.ca) (2021 01 13)
Do the instructional and assignable time limits in my collective agreement still apply during the pandemic?
Yes! The current situation with the pandemic has not impacted your collective agreement entitlements. Teachers are still limited to a maximum of 907 hours of instruction and 1200 hours of assignable time which includes instruction. Teachers are encouraged to calculate their time now to ensure they are not over the maximum amounts prior to June 30, 2021. (2020 10 19)
Given the ongoing COVID pandemic, do I have to work in the classroom 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)
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)
What is the requirement for personal protective equipment (PPE)?
Wearing masks in school is mandatory for all Grades 4 to 12 students and all staff and optional for students in Kindergarten to Grade 3. In September 2020, teachers and students were 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)
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)
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)
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)
If I suspect my colleague has COVID-19, what should I do?
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)
Quarantining or Self-isolating
I am following advice to self-isolate, will I get paid?
In certain circumstances, Alberta Health Services is directing Albertans to self-isolate, which is a precautionary measure and does not mean that the individual is infected with COVID-19. It is still a medical reason not to be at school and we would expect the absence to be paid. While only a few collective agreements have specific quarantine leave, being directed by a doctor or a public health professional to self-isolate is a medical reason not to be at work and teachers should be paid during this absence. If you are not, please contact the Teacher Employment Services (TES) program area as soon as possible. Teachers who are healthy and have not been advised to stay at home by a doctor or a public health professional will be expected to report to work as usual. (2020 10 05)
Do I need a sick note to self-isolate?
While most school boards waived the requirement for a doctor's note, the Employment Standards Code has now been amended so that leave is available without a sick note. If you are directed by a public health professional not to attend work, alert your employer right away. (2020 03 18)
What if I have been advised to self-isolate and do not have enough sick leave?
The Employment Standards Code now allows for a 14-day, job protected leave for people ill from COVID 19. While this is an unpaid leave, there may be federal income supports available if a teacher does not have any remaining provisions in a collective agreement to provide for their financial needs. (2020 10 05)
What if I have respiratory issues or have otherwise compromised health such as a weakened immune system?
Discuss your situation with your doctor. If you are required to be absent from work due to medical reasons, you should access medical leave. Most collective agreements require a note after three days of absence. (2020 03 13)
A member of my household has been directed to self-isolate. Do I need to stay home from work?
Take your direction from Alberta Health and Health Link (call 811). If you do need to stay home to care for a sick loved one, changes to the Employment Standards Code will allow leave for 14 days without the requirement of a doctor's note. Please inform your school board as soon as possible if you need this leave. (2020 04 22)
If I am directed to self-isolate, can I be required to still work?
If you are at home getting paid due to self-isolation, the school division can require you to conduct reasonable teaching duties from home. You are still getting paid so you could be expected to continue working, if you are medically able to do so. (2020 03 16)
I am really worried about catching COVID-19 and transmitting it to my family. Can I take a leave?
Teachers in this situation can access leave but expect that it will likely be an unpaid leave. There may be a potential for other options because of a protected family status situation. If you believe this applies to you, please contact the Teacher Employment Services (TES) program area for support. (2020 10 05)
Can my school division deny me sick leave because I am working from home?
The collective agreement between teachers and their respective employers is still in force, as well as the provisions (like sick leave or bereavement leave). . If you are denied pay due to an absence directed by a doctor or public health professional, please phone Teacher Employment Services (TES) immediately. (2020 10 05)
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)
ATA Business and Events
What about planned provincial ATA events and activities?
Many ATA events and activities involving gatherings of people are now being cancelled. Alberta Health has prohibited gatherings of more than 50 people. Albertans are also encouraged to limit the time Albertans spend in large crowds and crowded spaces.
Most Association events are continuing with the assistance of technology. Attendees will be notified.
Other provincial ATA events will be examined on a case-by-case basis according to the criteria given, and registered participants will be notified if events will be postponed, modified or cancelled. (2020 10 05)
What about ATA local activities?
ATA local activities will also be examined on a case-by-case basis by locals to determine if events or meetings will proceed, be altered or cancelled according to the directives from the Government of Alberta. (2020 03 31)
What about specialist council and teacher convention association activities?
Convention Associations and Specialist Councils are being advised to conduct meetings virtually. Meetings that take place in congregated settings must comply with all orders, regulations, and directives of provincial or municipal health authorities or school authorities in which they are occurring; furthermore, such activities must be voluntary and must offer the provision to attend virtually.
All 2021 Teachers’ Conventions will be occurring online. Specialist Council fall conferences have either been postponed or will be happening digitally. Other Councils are currently considering their spring conferences and will be making further decisions regarding these as the year progresses. For information regarding a specific council, teachers are encouraged to visit the Specialist Council’s website.
Currently Specialist council executive teams are investigating how to best support teachers across the province through digital means. (2020 10 05)
Mental Health and Coping
These are unprecedented times and can be quite stressful.
If you or members of your family are struggling with anxiety or mental health concerns related to the spread of this virus, supports are available through your Employee Family Assistance Plan accessible for most teachers through Homewood Health. See the ASEBP site for contact information.
The Mental Health Help Line is available 24/7 to provide advice and referrals to community supports near you: 1-877-303-2642.