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Commentary: Student health must be priority

Albertans expect the premier, MLAs to put student health and welfare above any political considerations

With tens of thousands of students now returned to in-person classes for the 2021-2020 term, parents, caregivers and others are hoping for a safe and healthy new school year.

Under the direction of the UCP government, students returned to classes under relaxed COVID-19 prevention measures, including not being provincially required to wear face coverings in classrooms or elsewhere on school property.

The decision to forgo masking sets the province apart from some other jurisdictions and is part of the Kenney government’s move to reopen Alberta following many months of strict COVID-19 prevention measures.

Premier Kenney has said students, teachers and staff will be safe under the new measures and that parents should feel confident in his government’s plans going forward.

Chinook’s Edge School Division superintendent Kurt Sacher says the 12,000-student division will look to Alberta Health Services for guidance during the new school year.

“We relied heavily on the expertise from Alberta Health Services (AHS) in finalizing our COVID-19 protocols,” said Sacher. “If the provincial protocols change, or if AHS has advised us that a particular area requires a modified approach, we will respond swiftly and appropriately with additional measures.”

He also said that any student or staff member who wishes to do so can wear a face covering mask at school.

In lifting provincially mandatory masking in schools, Premier Kenney has made a decision that will affect the day to day lives many thousands of students and their dedicated teachers. 

Hopefully it is the right move and will not lead to young people becoming infected with COVID-19 and suffering the potentially serious impacts of the virus.

However, if positive cases start to rise among students in the coming weeks, the premier should be prepared to reverse his decision on masking without delay.

When it comes to COVID-19, Albertans expect the premier and all other MLAs to put student health and welfare above any political considerations. Failing to do so would show an unacceptable lack of leadership.

Dan Singleton is an editor with The Albertan.