May 21, 2020
Dear Hon. Minister LaGrange:
In light of recent conversations regarding the reopening of Alberta schools, potentially for the next academic year, and as public education advocates, we are sharing our thoughts and concerns about the conditions required to assure the safety of students and education workers. We believe the government of Alberta must engage in immediate, comprehensive and transparent planning if schools are to reopen safely, and with the confidence of Albertans.
Re-Launch School Safety Walk Through:
It will be critical for parents to see the environment they are being asked to send their children to, and make any necessary enrollment decisions based on the measures taken. Relaunch School Safety Walk Through will also be an excellent way to ease the anxiety for many students over what to expect when schools reopen.
We urge this government to implement a School Safety Walk Through at least one week prior to school reopening so school occupants (students, parents,and education workers alike) can assess for themselves the measures and resources implemented to assure the health and safety of school occupants has been prioritized.
SOS Alberta has created a School Safety Walk Through Checklist (available on our website) for all school levels (Elementary, Middle and High School) that citizens can use to evaluate how schools are prepared for a relaunch. We urge all citizens to demand a physically, mentally and socially safe environment for all school occupants and expect this government to encourage this kind of engagement.
SOS Alberta recognizes that families may have unique priorities,and different expectations. However, as a public education advocacy organization that has investigated school relaunch strategies across the globe, the measures SOS Alberta expects the Alberta government will implement to prioritize student and education worker safety include:
- Limiting class sizes so physical space can accommodate appropriate distancing measures of 2m between all occupants.
- Co-horting of classes: teachers move between classrooms instead of students.
- Hallway movements & entrance movements staggered in time.
- Accomodations made for lunch times/recess to accommodate physical distancing.
- Training for staff and students on proper hygiene and behaviour.
- Sanitization stations at every entranceway, in hallways, near bathrooms.
- Addressing high frequency touchpoints like bathroom doors by removing doors or propping open.
- Dedicated & separate isolation room & supervision for students who display symptoms while waiting for pick-up.
- Thermometers widely available.
- Sufficient teachers to meet physical distancing requirements met by smaller class sizes.
- Educational Assistants return to assist students.
- Each school must have on site:
- Full time psychologist to provide mental health resources for students and staff.
- Full time Registered Nurse to monitor for symptoms and to monitor and enforce public health policies.
- Adequate caretakers, resourced with adequate and appropriate supplies to keep schools clean on a frequent and regular basis.
- Cleaning schedule is transparent and public.
- Prevent migration of substitutes between multiple schools, which could add to transmission (not unlike LTC workers who worked at multiple facilities).
- Protocol for frequent AHS/OH&S inspections of policies and implementation in each school, especially to provide feedback very early.
- Adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff and students in the event of an outbreak or undiagnosed illness.
- Well communicated plan based on pre-set conditions (one/two/three confirmed cases in a school?) that would result in a shut down of a particular school.
Again, we urge this government to involve students, parents and education workers in a School Safety Walk Through and have provided the public with checklists to evaluate their own priorities when considering a return to school.It is our aim that the checklists will start much needed conversations with school communities, teachers, principals and the Ministry itself about what makes a school environment safe during these unprecedented times.
Should you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us.
Team at Support Our Students Alberta