Decisions are yet to be made on school re-openings in Alberta, but teachers can be assured the education minister is aware of their perspectives.
“When you talk about reopening schools, you have to talk to teachers because they have a fundamental knowledge of how schools work and what will work in their classrooms. We can’t be on the sidelines of this conversation,” said ATA president Jason Schilling.
As announced by Alberta Education, the Alberta Teachers’ Association and other education stakeholders are presently working with the provincial government to develop a plan for reopening schools. Input that the Association has provided to the minister has drawn largely on information from teachers in the field.
“Our Provincial Executive Council (PEC) members are very knowledgeable and provide the Association with feedback about what’s going on in their geographic districts. Their work with our (55) locals and local presidents helps us gauge what’s going on with our members across the province,” Schilling said.
“Of additional benefit to us is the pandemic research study we recently conducted. To have input from thousands of individual teachers on the specific issue of reopening schools is vital, and that’s what the results of this study are giving us.”
The research study was a stratified survey of 3,000 members to capture how Alberta’s teachers are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Conducted between April 27 and May 15, the survey had a section on returning to school.
Planning for the reopening of schools and resumption of in-school learning after a pandemic is incredibly complex, Schilling said. Transportation, sanitization, class size, mental health, assessment and so many other elements must be viewed from policy, practice, people and budget perspectives.
Schilling said it has been a very valuable exercise to work with government and other stakeholders to learn what reopening looks like from different perspectives.
“We have been looking at all issues through different lenses to ensure nothing is missed or overlooked,” Schilling said. “I think the next step for us is answering all of the questions we’ve generated, and coming up with solutions to the issues we’ve identified.”
Overall, safety has emerged as the number-one issue for teachers.
“The safety of staff, students, parents and our broader community is the starting point. Everything goes through the lens of ‘safety first,’” Schilling said.
“If we don’t feel safe at school, that’s going to affect teaching and learning. Once the question of safety is answered, it is very likely everything else will fall into place.”
About the ATA’s pandemic research study
The Alberta Teachers’ Association conducted a random, stratified survey of 3,000 members to capture how Alberta’s teachers are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. It included questions on these issues:
- Equity and well-being
- Technology use and distance learning
- Pedagogy and the profession of teaching
- Return to public school buildings and the world after COVID-19
The data from the random sample was supplemented by an open survey that was posted on the Association’s website, and a sampling from interviews and virtual focus groups of teachers and school leaders involved in the Association’s international action research projects.
The 3,000 participants in the stratified survey random were a highly representative random sample, generating a confidence level of plus or minus 1.5 percentage points on every question. ❚