Teachers call for government to ensure schools are safe

Release Date 2021 12 28

With students set to return to school in a week’s time, Alberta Teachers’ Association President Jason Schilling is calling on the minister of education to take steps to ensure that students, teachers, staff and families will be safe.

“The Omicron variant of COVID-19 is a complete game changer. School communities expect that the mediocre measures that failed in Alberta’s fourth wave will be strengthened for the return to school next week.

Omicron is highly contagious and we are likely to see a substantial number of people that will become sick or need to isolate. The minister needs to pay attention.”

—Jason Schilling, ATA President

As schools provide an essential service to society while also bringing together large numbers of people in close quarters, it is essential that better steps be taken to limit the spread within schools and between schools and their communities.

“The Association has consistently advocated publicly and behind the scenes for the minister to enact measures and set mandatory standards across the province for masking, improved ventilation, ongoing testing, consistent reporting to parents and public and, where possible, cohorting to limit student contact.

“We are also asking for proactive preparation to manage the consequences of outbreaks by increasing the availability of substitute teachers, cancelling the January provincial examinations and, if necessary, preparing for a swift but smooth transition to remote learning. It is not too late to listen and to act.”

—Jason Schilling, ATA President

Schilling says that he has heard from teachers who are frustrated by mixed messages, incomplete and inconsistent information about school-based outbreaks, lack of adequate testing and a sense that schools are being abandoned to figure out a path forward in a public health emergency.

“Over 96 per cent of teachers are now vaccinated and they would prefer to be back in the classroom teaching, but it must be safe. Teachers are willing to do their part, but the minister now needs to do hers and take immediate action to ensure that schools are as safe as they can be at the start of the New Year.

—Jason Schilling, ATA President

The Alberta Teachers’ Association, as the professional organization of teachers, promotes and advances public education, safeguards standards of professional practice and serves as the advocate for its 46,000 members.

For more information, or to arrange an interview with President Schilling, please contact Jonathan Teghtmeyer at 780-996-4402.