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Opposition NDP calls for hiring of teachers to keep kids in class

Last Updated Apr 21, 2021 at 6:57 pm MDT

EDMONTON (660 NEWS) — More Alberta schools will be moving to online learning for the next couple of weeks due to staffing shortages due to the third wave of COVID-19.

The opposition NDP is now calling on the UCP government to release funding to hire around 2,000 more teachers to keep kids in class.

NDP MLA and education critic Sarah Hoffman is asking the province to dip into its COVID-19 contingency fund to hire newly graduated teachers to provide resources needed for students.

WATCH: CityNews’ Taylor Braat reports on all Calgary students grades 7-12 moving online as schools face severe staff shortages.

“These are people that are fully ready to get into the classroom and ready to help. We know that with a promise of employment, graduating teachers can obtain a teaching certificate very quickly. There are teachers we’ve been talking to who are eager to help,” Hoffman said.

She says the funds are there from the contingency fund put in by the government in Budget 2021, but knows why school boards requested to go online.

“I understand why the boards have done it. They haven’t had enough staff to properly support their schools as the primary reason. Therefore, the primary solution is to get more staff, but the province needs to release those funds,” Hoffman added.

Education Minister Adriana Lagrange said funding was directly funded to school boards in July.

“It is not a funding issue, it is a capacity issue and it has been all along that we just don’t have that number of substitute teachers available for those school authorities to actually hire with the funds that they do have,” Lagrange said.

READ MORE: Alberta student says she and others are dreading return to online learning

Now roughly around 160,000 students will be learning from home over the next couple of weeks.

Grade 12 student Sofia Calderon says the challenges have been massive in having to swap from in-person to online.

“When going from in-person to online learning more than multiple times in one year, it makes me question my level of education. Am I actually ready and prepared for post-secondary? Am I going to actually have the right skills I need and be equipped with the right knowledge to enter the workforce?” Calderon said.

Plus Calderon has heard from a number of her classmates of how difficult it is to learn online.

“For a lot of students that have to transition to online, to in-person — or back-and-forth and just the big switch — it’s a little hard on them. Because when it comes to retaining information it’s a bit hard when you’re looking at the same screen for four-and-a-half hours or six and then you go home and then you do the exact same work and then do your homework,” she said.

But one of the big differences for students is having that relationship with a teacher.

“The key thing is just in-person and continuing on with that socialization because if a teacher can’t connect with a student, it’s just not the same.”