Education minister must ‘stake her job’ on return to school: Lethbridge-West MLA Phillips

Lethbridge-West MLA Shannon Phillips is taking aim at the province’s education minister over Alberta’s return to in-class learning this month.

Phillips is demanding that Adriana LaGrange resign if COVID-19 forces students to learn remotely.

“If Albertans see widespread school closures because of the rapid spread of omicron, if thousands of students are sent home again because of this government’s refusal to step up, then the minister must step down,” Phillips said.

Read more: Alberta K-12 students to return to class Jan. 10 amid record-setting numbers of new COVID-19 cases

Schools are preparing to welcome students back into classrooms on Monday.

The minister’s office calls Phillips’ ultimatum “fearmongering.”

“(The NDP’s) continued attempts to scare parents at a time of such deep uncertainty is shameful,” a statement from a ministry spokesperson reads in part.

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Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Alberta education minister confirms return to in-class learning Jan. 10' COVID-19: Alberta education minister confirms return to in-class learning Jan. 10

COVID-19: Alberta education minister confirms return to in-class learning Jan. 10

The Alberta Teachers’ Association is also expressing concerns over the back to school plan.

“I fear, along with many of my colleagues, that we’ll see schools have to move online again and that it is going to be inevitable,” ATA president Jason Schilling said.

“Important health measures are already in place to provide layers of protection which will continue to keep our classrooms safe,” the ministry’s statement adds, referencing physical distancing and enhanced sanitization measures.

Read more: Calgary schools warn parents of possible at-home learning ahead of return to classes

The province will also be providing 16.5-million medical-grade masks and 8.6-million rapid tests to staff and students.

Currently, school divisions can shift an individual class or grade to at-home learning at their discretion. Moving entire schools or divisions online must be approved by Alberta education.

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Click to play video: '‘We’ll work with school divisions to help them navigate through this’: LaGrange' ‘We’ll work with school divisions to help them navigate through this’: LaGrange

‘We’ll work with school divisions to help them navigate through this’: LaGrange

In a statement to Global News, Holy Spirit Catholic School Division superintendent Ken Sampson says safety remains the top priority.

“We will be monitoring student and staff attendance and are prepared to respond quickly should a quick transition to virtual learning be required,” Sampson said.

Meanwhile, the Lethbridge School Division is implementing ventilation upgrades to improve air quality.

Read more: Edmonton schools making changes to air filtration as calls grow for HEPA filters

“Temporary online learning will take place only when it is not possible to continue in-person learning because of high student or staff absences,” a statement from the division reads, in part.

Masks are mandatory for all grades, and any staff or students exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms must stay home.

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