With teachers and other education workers now eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations and K–12 learning having moved online, the ATA is expressing relief on behalf of Alberta teachers.
Following the government’s May 3 announcement that education workers would be a priority when phase three of vaccinations begin, the ATA issued a news release containing a two-word statement from president Jason Schilling.
A few days later, on May 5, Premier Jason Kenney announced that vaccinations would be available to all Albertans older than 12, starting on May 10.
On the school front, Kenney announced on May 4 that K–12 learning would move online beginning May 7 and extend until May 25.
In a released statement, Schilling said teachers appreciate aggressive action to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 but have mixed emotions about moving online.
“Teachers have a heavy heart and mixed emotions to see learning move online for the next two weeks. We would always prefer to be in schools working with students, but today’s decision is a prudent move to regain control over the spread of COVID in Alberta,” Schilling said.
He added that the ATA looks forward to working with government and other stakeholders on ways to provide further support to schools when in-person learning resumes on May 25.
“Serious efforts to contain the pandemic in Alberta communities will be essential to ensuring that students, teachers and staff can be together again safely,” he said.
It was a further relief that teachers and school staff will have an opportunity to receive their first dose of vaccine before in-person learning resumes, he said.
Schilling said that school boards must now do their part to reduce the risk of spread by allowing all teachers who are able to work from home, to work from home.
“The government has stated that working from home remains mandatory unless the employer requires the employee’s physical presence to operate effectively,” he said. “We expect school boards to respect this clear direction.”
In the latter part of April and into early May, Alberta was experiencing the highest per-capita rate of COVID-19 infection in Canada and the United States, with new cases exceeding 2,200 per day and active cases numbering more than 24,000. These numbers are the highest since the pandemic began, exceeding the previous peak experienced in December.
As of May 6, nearly 1.7 million doses of vaccine had been administered in Alberta. The province is scheduled to receive more than 2.4 million doses of vaccine by July 4.