In this Oct. 31, 2018 file photo, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi speaks during a Calgary City council meeting. (File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

In this Oct. 31, 2018 file photo, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi speaks during a Calgary City council meeting. (File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Calgary could ‘step into the fray’ on Alberta school reopening plan: mayor

Calgary city council passes face coverings bylaw

Calgary’s mayor says the Alberta government’s plan to reopen schools in September isn’t good enough and the city could step in if it isn’t improved.

Naheed Nenshi said Wednesday that he’s “nervous” about kindergarten to Grade 12 classes returning to more-or-less normal, without mandatory masks, when daily COVID-19 infection rates are on the rise.

“Certainly we need a better plan from the education minister. We need a better plan from the government of Alberta,” he said.

“And if we don’t have one, the City of Calgary — we have to maintain people’s safety. And if we have to step into the fray, we will.”

Alberta Health reported another 133 COVID-19 cases and two additional deaths Wednesday. The province has seen more than 100 new cases on five of the last six days and infections are trending upwards.

Nenshi said the city does have a “very blunt tool” in the form of mandating masks.

The Alberta government has encouraged masks to slow the spread of COVID-19, especially in indoor settings where maintaining a two-metre distance isn’t possible. But it’s not making masks mandatory.

Calgary city council voted Tuesday to pass a temporary bylaw requiring face coverings in indoor public premises and public vehicles, effective Aug. 1.

Nenshi acknowledged that schools are provincial jurisdiction, but said city council could discuss its options before school starts.

He said the Alberta government and school boards have the ability to enact more nuanced rules than the city, such as making students wear masks only in the hallway or during close group work.

Under the province’s plan, schools with no outbreak would rely on measures such as hand sanitizer at the entrances, more frequent cleaning, grouping students into cohorts and planning the school day to allow for physical distancing.

Students and teachers would be required to stay home if sick. Masks would be optional.

The president of the Alberta Teachers’ Association said educators are eager to get back to work.

“But they want to make sure that they are doing this in the most safe manner possible and there are several questions and concerns about this scenario as it’s laid out,” said Jason Schilling.

Schilling wants as few students to a group as possible, and that would require more teachers.

The teachers’ union also wants to see a more robust sick leave policy, symptom checks for people entering schools and a testing protocol, along with assurances that there are enough substitute teachers to cover illnesses.

Schilling said consultations with the province were going well initially, but outstanding concerns went unaddressed in the weeks leading up the reopening announcement.

Schools were shut down in mid-March when the pandemic took hold in Alberta.

Barbara Silva, with the public education advocacy group Support our Students, said that’s when the province should have started investing in the infrastructure and staff needed to make schools safe.

“The recommendations are incredibly hollow if they’re not met with the resources and the funding that make those recommendations possible,” she said.

“So simply saying that students have to physically distance is impossible if you’re going to stuff 40 kids into a classroom made for 20 with no windows or windows that are non-operational.”

Silva said she’s worried students and staff are going to get sick, and that children’s education will once again be interrupted by another lockdown.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney reiterated Wednesday that shutting schools down indefinitely is bad for students’ mental-health and life prospects.

He noted countries in Asia and Europe have opened classrooms with relative safety.

Catholic school classes held in Alberta over the summer have been managed well during the pandemic, Kenney added.

One student who fell ill, and later tested negative for COVID-19, was immediately isolated and information was shared quickly, he said.

“That was a good dry run of how this would happen if and when there would be infections,” Kenney said.

“We can’t eliminate the risk of people contracting this virus, and that includes prospectively students and school staff. We have to manage the risk and that’s exactly what we’re doing in a prudent and careful way.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on July 22, 2020.

CoronavirusSchools

Just Posted

The Government of Alberta identified 115 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the provincial total to 3,089.
(Black Press file photo)
Red Deer COVID cases continue to fall

114 cases in Red Deer, down one from Saturday

Maskwacis Pride crosswalk (Left to right): Montana First Nation Councillor Reggie Rabbit, Samson Cree Nation Councillor Louise Omeasoo, Samson Cree Nation Councillor Katherine Swampy, Samson Cree Nation Councillor Shannon Buffalo, Samson Cree Nation Chief Vern Saddleback.
Pride in Maskwacis

The 4th inaugural Maskwacis Pride crosswalk painting took place on Saturday 12, 2020.

Manluk Centre/ Impress
Manluk Centre re-opens to the public

Drop in and registered programs will be available; one-third facility capacity to be followed.

File photo
Leduc RCMP request assistance to identify armed robbery suspect

Leduc RCMP are looking for male responsible for an armed robbery at Super Car and RV Wash in Leduc.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives at the 2021 budget in Edmonton on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta launches COVID vaccine lottery with million-dollar prizes to encourage uptake

The premier says the lottery will offer three prizes worth $1 million a piece, as well as other prizes

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Calgary Stampeders’ Jerome Messam leaps over a tackle during second half CFL western semifinal football action in Calgary, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
CFL football will be played this summer in Canada

Governors vote unanimously in favour to start the ‘21 campaign on Aug. 5

Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino holds a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. The federal government is announcing that Indigenous people can now apply to reclaim their names on passports and other government documents. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous people can now reclaim traditional names on their passports and other ID

Announcement applies to all individuals of First Nations, Inuit and Métis background

This undated photo provided by Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails shows a scout donating cookies to firefighters in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, as part of the Hometown Heroes program. As the coronavirus pandemic wore into the spring selling season, many Girl Scout troops nixed their traditional cookie booths for safety reasons. That resulted in millions of boxes of unsold cookies. (Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails via AP)
Thinner Mints: Girl Scouts have millions of unsold cookies

Since majority of cookies are sold in-person, pandemic made the shortfall expected

In this artist’s sketch, Nathaniel Veltman makes a video court appearance in London, Ont., on June 10, 2021 as Justice of the Peace Robert Seneshen (top left) and lawyer Alayna Jay look on. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alexandra Newbould
Terror charges laid against London attack suspect

Crown says Nathaniel Veltman’s four counts of first-degree murder constitute an act of terrorism

Most Read