Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said Wednesday that the aim is to have schools open in September, with a concrete decision to be made by August 1. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)

Education Minister LaGrange expects students to be back in class in September

42 new cases of COVID-19 reported Wednesday

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange says she expects students to be back in classrooms in September.

“Our goal is to get us back to normal learning as soon as possible,” LaGrange, MLA for Red Deer-North said on Wednesday, the same day Alberta reported just 42 new cases of COVID-19.

“We all know that students learn best in the classroom with their teachers and their peers. Provided that it’s safe to do so… based on the information we have now, we expect students will be at school in September.”

Under a second scenario, classes will only resume partially because of additional health requirements. The third scenario is that at-home learning will continue.

Returning to school will be based on the number of COVID-19 cases in the province, hospitalizations and ICU numbers, but also on evidence collected by schools around the world that have already reopened, she said.

A decision on which model will be implemented is expected by Aug. 1.

LaGrange said a return to classrooms could also happen regionally, based on the number of COVID-19 cases in each area.

“The reality is, the COVID-19 environment requires all of us to be flexible and nimble throughout the next school year. Everyone has a role to play in the safe return of in-school classes and reduce the transmission of COVID-19,” she said.

LaGrange stressed the decision on which scenario is selected for the return to school will be made by the government, not by local school boards or authorities.

The province also released health guidelines for parents about what to expect for the upcoming school year.

Some guidelines include frequent handwashing for students before and after they enter the school and increased cleaning of surfaces in classrooms, hallways and busses.

In the event schools need to revert to the second scenario, stricter measures will be in place, including physical distancing and a maximum of 15 people in a classroom.

In that case, students will go to class on a modified basis, and it will be up to local school authorities to create class calendars.

Tuesday, Saskatchewan announced it would let schools return to in-person classes in the fall. They have had just 656 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and only 13 deaths.

British Columbia is also aiming to open schools for full-time classes in September. On May 15, the province announced it would open schools on an optional, part-time basis as of June 1.

When they opened schools earlier this month, about one-third of students returned.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, also provided an update on the latest COVID-19 statistics.

Hinshaw said there are still 371 active cases of COVID-19 in the province. There have been 7,276 confirmed cases in Alberta. She reported that of the 6,582 tests in the last 24 hours, there were only 42 new cases.

There are still no active cases in the central zone, with 86 recovered cases.

In the last 24 hours, there have been no new deaths, with the total number of deaths remaining at 151.

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