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NDP Education Critic demands clarity, more support as province announces move back to in-person learning

Last Updated May 18, 2021 at 8:45 pm MDT

Sarah Hoffman, Alberta Minister of Health, responds to a reporter's questions at a press conference during the Conferences of Provincial-Territorial Ministers of Health in Winnipeg on June 28, 2018. Alberta's health minister says it's unacceptable that a terminally ill patient at a Catholic care centre was wheeled off the property near a busy street to have an assessment for a doctor-assisted death. Sarah Hoffman says everyone deserves dignified and compassionate care, no matter the facility. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

CALGARY — Alberta NDP Critic for Education, Sarah Hoffman, spoke on Tuesday after news broke that classes in the province would be returning to in-person learning after the long weekend.

Hoffman is demanding answers from the provincial government — and wants things to be made more clear for those who are going to be directly affected.

She said the decision to close schools during the third wave came in a matter of days, which forced parents, and families as a whole, to scramble and figure out how they would manage the changes.

RELATED: Students to go back to in-person learning after long weekend

“Students lives were turned upside down and teachers were forced to turn online attempting to teach and support all of their students in extremely difficult circumstances.

“For most teachers, this has been the toughest year of their professional career.”

Hoffman questioned whether there will be additional support available for teachers, and will more teachers be hired.

She also wants to know if more funding will be provided to stock up on PPE and cleaning supplies, as well as wondering if there will be a vaccination program set up in schools across the province.

RELATED: Alberta educators burnt-out from the pandemic

Hoffman called on Education Minister Adriana LaGrange to share what her plan is to keep everyone safe as they return to in-person learning.

“We should not force parents, staff, and students  to wait until the last minute to learn about their plans for back to school, this has already been an incredibly difficult year, Albertans need real leadership from their government.”

The Alberta government responded on Tuesday evening to Hoffman’s comments:

“To date, school authorities have been provided access to $1 billion dollars in taxpayer funding for COVID-19. This includes a $120 million increase in operating funding for all school authorities across the province, $10 million in PPE including 2 masks for every student and staff, $250 million in accelerated capital maintenance and renewal funding, and access to taxpayer-funded board reserves, of which there has been $363 million available across the province. This also includes $262 million that the federal government transferred to Alberta.

Alberta Education is committed to a safe return to in-person learning on May 25th, however, we will continue to monitor the situation and make adjustments as needed. We recognize the importance of resuming in-person learning as soon as it is possible. We are confident students will return back to their classrooms to finish the school year.”