COVID-19: Alberta daycare facing staffing shortage as parents juggle school delay

Alberta parents, schools and daycares are anxiously waiting to hear whether K-12 students will be going back to in-person or online learning next week.

READ MORE: COVID-19: Alberta will delay return to in-person K to 12 school until Jan. 10

On Monday, Ontario announced its schools will switch to remote learning starting on Wednesday for at least two weeks.

While Alberta K-12 students are on an extended winter break this week amid a surge in the number of new COVID-19 cases in the province, daycares remain open.

Krystal Churcher, the owner of the Early Start Learning Centre in Fort McMurray, said the majority of her staff members have school-aged children of their own.

“We’re in a child-care staff shortage crisis in Alberta already,” Churcher said.

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“It’s not something where we can find temporary staff to come in while these parents can go home and be with their children.”

The Alberta government said more information on whether students will learn in-class or at home beginning Jan. 10 will be announced later this week.

READ MORE: Ontario families scramble as Omicron forces 2-week school closure

“I think that we’re able to juggle it for this short term of a week with staffing, but if it goes to online learning, I don’t know what we’re going to do,” Churcher said.

“That was horrible last year for staffing. We could barely keep our classes going because we were… (so) short-staffed.”

Churcher said she has been fielding inquiries over the weekend from families looking for child care for their school-aged kids.

“(It’s) difficult. We don’t offer that kind of service at our centre,” she said.

Alberta Teachers’ Association president Jason Schilling said if students go back to the classroom on Monday, there are a lot of details that need to be worked out.

“We also need directions on things such as assemblies and sporting events and other things that occur in regular working days of school,” Schilling said.

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“Keeping people safe is the No. 1 thing, but we also need to give people time to be prepared for that.”

Wing Li, spokeswoman for advocacy group Support Our Students Alberta, said she hopes the province uses this week to rethink its current COVID-19 measures in schools.

“Putting in HEPA filters, addressing ventilation in schools, having a more staggered approach to have less students in the school at one time,” she suggested.

Click to play video: 'Students, parents and teachers in Alberta prepare for extended winter break because of COVID-19' Students, parents and teachers in Alberta prepare for extended winter break because of COVID-19

Students, parents and teachers in Alberta prepare for extended winter break because of COVID-19

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