Parents, teachers, and educational assistants continue to express concerns about Alberta’s back-to-school plan amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The group, ‘Safe September AB’ held its first rally outside Education Minister Adriana LaGrange’s office in Red Deer, Alta.
It scheduled simultaneous rallies for Aug. 21 throughout the province.
Local organizer and advocate Una Rhoddy said as many as 20 protests will take place, including in Fort McMurray.
She said she and non-profit partners, NeuroDivergency Advocacy say Alberta’s back-to-school plan is “short-sighted”.
“We feel that the layoffs of the educational staff that happened pre-pandemic, [which] haven’t been reinstated in certain positions, that itself is not a safe avenue to be heading down trying to reopen our schools.”
A major concern is the lack of a hard cap on class sizes to aid physical distancing requirements.
The 2019 budget said it will maintain funding at $8.2 billion, which wouldn’t factor in the enrolment growth across the province.
Alberta said its plan follows the expert advice from the chief medical officer of health, Dr Deena Hinshaw.
Rhoddy is a 20-year resident of Wood Buffalo.
She recalled the help she received from support staff during her time in school.
“It’s really difficult to say what’s going to happen, but I feel it’s in our best interest to speak up for those vulnerable or marginalized communities, especially those so close to home.”
Rhoddy questioned if the province will address whether 811 is ready for a jump in cases.
Rhoddy said they will organize in front of MLA Tany Yao’s downtown office, and write their questions and concerns about the back-to-school plan.
“It really shows that we care about a Safe September, especially for Alberta, and that our teachers and our neurodiverse and special needs communities in the region that their concerns and questions are being aired.”
More information about #SafeSeptemberAB is available on Facebook.
The Fort McMurray rally will start at 12 p.m. on Aug. 21, 2020.