With Alberta kindergarten - Grade 12 students back to school this week following the extended Christmas break, the balancing act between giving kids the education they deserve and ensuring the safety of the overall school community is front and centre as never before.
With the Omicron variant’s rapid spread having already caused the delay in re-starting classes in 2022 and forcing new measures in schools, parents and other stakeholders are watching closely and hoping for the best.
Finding the middle ground between the need to protect and promote the mental and physical well-being of young people, including making their education experiences as normal as possible, and keeping them safe from the deadly COVID-19 virus is the daunting task now facing educators.
Health researchers in Alberta and elsewhere have already determined that the constant switching between in-person and online learning caused by the pandemic is proving harmful to at least some young people. And now that Alberta schools have returned to in-person learning this week the hope is that COVID can be kept at bay while students learn in classrooms.
Education Minister Adriana LaGrange says the safety measures in place will protect students.
“Experts agree and continue to stress the importance of in-person learning to the overall health of children and youth,” said LaGrange. “That is why Alberta’s government has placed such a high priority on safe in-class instruction and making sure schools have the tools they need to continue providing a world-class education to Alberta students.”
The official Opposition says the government is certainly not doing enough to ensure student safety and to protect the overall school community.
“The measures described by UCP Education Minister Adriana LaGrange are completely inadequate,” said NDP education critic Sarah Hoffman. “Albertans cannot trust the UCP to keep their kids safe.”
As students return to in-person learning in 2022, a very tough balancing act created by the COVID-19 pandemic is playing itself out in Alberta schools.
Dan Singleton is an editor with the Albertan.