Opposition hammers away at COVID response
The fall session of the 30th legislature began on Oct. 20. COVID-19 has been the focus of much of the education-related agenda in question period. The curriculum working groups have also been debated.
Oral question period
COVID-19 in schools
Nov. 16—Sarah Hoffman (NDP—Edmonton-Glenora) asked Education Minister Adriana LaGrange why schools are not receiving timely notification when students or staff test positive for COVID-19. Children’s Services Minister Rebecca Schulz replied that there is a clear and effective process to respond to cases in schools. She added that Alberta is one of the first provinces that began publicly tracking outbreaks in schools.
Pointing out that teachers and principals are engaged in contact tracing, Hoffman asked LaGrange why she did not cap class sizes at 15 students instead of using Albertans’ money to pay for a $4.7 billion giveaway. Health Minister Tyler Shandro replied that 125 Statistics Canada employees will soon be conducting contact tracing in schools.
Nov. 18—Sarah Hoffman (NDP—Edmonton-Glenora) noted that Jason Stephan (UCP—Red Deer-South) had suggested that there is too much risk aversion to COVID-19 in schools and that Todd Loewen (UCP—Central Peace–Notley) had complained that students were spending too much time washing their hands during the school day. She asked Education Minister Adriana LaGrange whether she would ask her colleagues to “knock it off.” LaGrange replied that only 0.13 per cent of students and staff have active cases of COVID-19.
Hoffman asked LaGrange whether she would tell her caucus to stop spreading misinformation. Health Minister Tyler Shandro replied that the NDP MLAs are hypocrites and continue to attend superspreader events. Hoffman asked LaGrange what she would do to “smarten up, stop playing games and actually protect students and staff in our communities.” Noting that it would take an additional 13,000 teachers to reduce class sizes to 15 students, LaGrange pointed out that “we have students back in school, learning in a safe environment and we appreciate all that our teachers are doing out there.”
COVID-19 Response and education funding
Nov. 19—Referring to two newly certificated teachers who cannot find work, Sarah Hoffman (NDP—Edmonton-Glenora) asked Education Minister Adriana LaGrange why she will not properly fund schools and get the teachers in front of students. LaGrange replied that school authorities across the province have active postings. Hoffman asked LaGrange to reverse the education cutbacks. LaGrange replied that, according to the College of Alberta School Superintendents, it is not a funding issue but a substitute teacher availability issue. Hoffman asked LaGrange how she can continue to recite talking points “when she cut funding, when she’s causing chaos, and when she’s leaving kids unsafe and people unemployed who can help.” LaGrange replied that the president of the College of Alberta School Superintendents is one of many superintendents across the province who are currently recruiting and hiring teachers. ❚