Monday, January 24, 2022

Edmonton Public School preparing for online class when thousands of teachers and students are absent

Just two days into the return to in-person classes, the president of Edmonton Public Schools said officials were preparing for the case and that schools had to move online due to staff shortages due to COVID-19.

On Tuesday, 494 teachers and 262 education assistants remained absent. The board said the total was for all reasons, and the exact number of absences due to the coronavirus was not provided.

Despite 29 emergency replacement teachers being sent to cover classes, seven teaching positions were vacant.

About 1,500 students, or 1.44 per cent, were absent due to COVID-19 on Monday. The other 1,500 or so were absent due to “general illness”.

No classes or schools were moved online on Tuesday.

Board chair Trisha Estabrook said, “We continue to see the number of cases, we continue to see the positivity rate (increase). And so, as a school division, we have to move classes or entire schools online. Have to be ready at a moment’s notice.” ,

The board of trustees is seeking more help from the province to keep the students in school.

School officials want staff to be able to use the COVID-19 PCR test and Alberta Health Services to notify schools if there is a positive case.

The trustees are also seeking clear guidelines from the province on when it is time to move classes online.

“It’s one of the disappointments. Earlier, there were very clear metrics when we were making shifts or requesting to move entire schools online. Now it’s up to the administration to set their own benchmarks,” Estabrook said.

The public school board’s website will eventually include information on absentee rates and positive cases.

The board hopes that these details will reassure parents that schools are closely watching the numbers.

The Alberta government distributed masks to the school board this week, and they were shipped to high schools.

Estabrooks said they are still waiting for small masks for younger students and rapid test kits for families.

Last week, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange promised an online tutoring hub for students in classes four to nine who need extra help with math and literacy.

The first six pre-recorded teaching videos were posted on Tuesday.

“Schools play such an important role in the overall well-being of students. Thank you to everyone in Alberta’s education system who has worked hard to keep our schools safe for students and staff,” the minister tweeted Monday.

With files from Matt Woodman of CTV News Edmonton

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