Education Minister to announce how Alberta will spend federal safe school funding



a person wearing a purple shirt: Education Minister Adriana LaGrange


© Chris Schwarz
Education Minister Adriana LaGrange

The Alberta government is set to announce how it will spend safe school funding from the federal government.

The province will receive $262.84 million from Ottawa as part of a new Safe Return to Class Fund announced last week by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Trudeau said that although education is a provincial responsibility, parents have said they are “extremely worried” and provinces needed more support to ensure kids and teachers are safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Provinces and territories will have flexibility to spend the money as they see fit, and it will be handed out in two instalments in the fall and in early 2021.

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw are scheduled to speak at 11 a.m.

The Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) has been raising concerns for weeks over class sizes amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and Alberta’s Opposition NDP has called for a cap of 15 students.

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One-quarter of respondents to a weekend ATA survey of about 2,000 members said their largest classes would be between 30 to 40 students — making physical distancing a significant, if not impossible, challenge.

At a Tuesday press conference, Kenney said spending the money on cutting class sizes to 15 students was unrealistic, claiming such a proposal would cost $4 billion.

“The proposals to reduce class sizes in half are actually proposals to keep the schools shut,” he said.

“We appreciate the additional federal funding, but there is no world in which you could reduce class sizes in half and reopen the schools for the current school year … It’s simply fictitious. It has nothing to do with reality.”

Wednesday is the first day of school for the Edmonton Catholic district, and an estimated 4,400 students had not registered for in-person or online learning as of Friday’s deadline. The division was following up with families but did not have an updated number as of Tuesday.

Three-quarters of Edmonton Catholic students were expected to attend in-person classes on Wednesday, while approximately 25 per cent will receive online instruction starting Sept. 8. The division won’t know final enrolment numbers until later next week.

Edmonton Public is expecting 70 per cent of students in classrooms when their school year starts Thursday, and the other 30 per cent starting online learning that same day, based on figures from Aug. 24. Spokeswoman Carrie Rosa said final numbers may be updated later this week.

More to come

lijohnson@postmedia.com

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