Planning for virtual ARA still ongoing
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have ripple effects on the Alberta Teachers’ Association and its operations.
Project Overseas will not be recruiting new participants for next year. Instead, participants chosen for 2020, who have had their travel cancelled due to COVID-19, have been offered the chance to travel in 2021.
A variety of work that ATA members do in the international arena is being suspended or altered this summer and in the coming months. For example, the ATA’s Project Overseas committee has decided not to advertise for new participants as it normally does at this time of year. Since the 10 participants chosen for 2020 are unable to travel overseas as planned this summer, they have all been offered the opportunity to travel next year instead, said Andrea Berg, the staff officer who oversees the ATA’s international co-operation work.
“Nobody’s surprised. This is what has to happen,” Berg said of the travel cancellations. “Everyone’s just being cautiously optimistic that it could happen next year, knowing that it still might not.”
Project Overseas is a partnership with the Canadian Teachers’ Federation that normally sends teachers to various countries in Africa, Asia or the Caribbean for two weeks during July or August.
IT for Dominica, another of the international projects that the ATA sponsors, normally sends a group of Alberta teachers to that Caribbean country during the summer to share their technological expertise. However, this summer the Alberta teacher participants will be delivering their sessions remotely, Berg said.
Change for Children, which sends Alberta teachers on a two-week teaching tour of Guatemala each July, has been suspended for this year and organizers are considering their options for next year, Berg said.
Here at home, ATA officials are continuing to plan a virtual Annual Representative Assembly (ARA) to be held using Zoom in August.
The ATA has 10 teams looking into every aspect of mounting a virtual ARA, including registration, IT support and managing online delegates, said Associate Executive Secretary Joni Turville.
“Part of our challenge is to give our members a chance to engage in debate even though it’s going to look and feel different than when we’re in the same ballroom,” Turville said.
The ATA recently observed how the Manitoba Teachers’ Society conducted its annual general meeting via Zoom and is also learning from its own Teacher Welfare program area, which has been involved in local bargaining by conducting virtual bargaining unit general meetings.
The final order paper for ARA hasn’t been finalized, but the intent is to conduct the core business that normally takes place, such as the reports, resolutions and budget.
“We’re doing things in a different way but we’re still doing the business of the assembly,” Turville said.
Provincial Executive Council is slated to finalize many of the plans for ARA during its next regular meeting on June 11 and 12. The status of the Beginning Teachers’ Conference, which normally takes place in the fall, is also slated for discussion. ❚