In recent weeks, we've been vocal about the difficult spot parents and educators are in as students get ready to return to school in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic. As we've stated previously, allowing students back in schools increases the risk of transmitting COVID-19, not only among the student population but also to teachers and families at home. However, keeping schools closed would have put undue pressure on parents – many of whom aren't full-time educators and may not have the luxury of taking time off work to fully support their child's education.
While we remain concerned that reopening schools could lead to a spike in local cases, this week we want to applaud the bodies in charge of local schools. In recent weeks, both Rocky View Schools (RVS) – which oversees public schools in Airdrie and Rocky View County – and Calgary Catholic School District (CCSD) – which is in charge of Catholic schools in the same area – have unveiled reopening plans that put our minds at least a little at ease.
Those plans include giving families the option to keep children at home for online learning, if that suits families' circumstances and level of discomfort with schools reopening. Both divisions are prioritizing basic safety measures like physical distancing, increased handwashing and mask-wearing. Schools will also have staggered start dates so that the entire student body does not descend on the building all at once in the first week of September.
RVS has also allocated extra funds to hire temporary custodial staff, who will be on hand in case someone gets sick and can't go to work.
We believe these measures demonstrate local school officials are taking the risk of COVID-19 seriously, and doing what they can to ensure the safety of employees and children in their care.
These aren't perfect solutions by any means. But giving the situation schools are in, the steps taken by RVS and CCSD should go a long way to reassure families who feel nervous about returning to school.