Edmonton Public Schools Prepare Online Classes While Thousands of Teachers and Students Are Absent

Just two days after returning to in-person classes, the Edmonton Public Schools chairman said officials were preparing in the event that classes and schools have to go online due to staff shortages due to COVID-19.

On Tuesday, 494 teachers and 262 teaching assistants were absent. The board said that was a total for all causes, and an exact number of absences due to the coronavirus was not provided.

Seven teaching positions were unfilled, despite 29 emergency replacement teachers being sent out to cover the classes.

About 1,500 students, or 1.44 percent, were absent on Monday due to COVID-19. Another 1,500 were absent due to ‘general illness’.

No classes or schools had been moved online on Tuesday.

“We continue to monitor the number of cases, we continue to look at the level of positivity (increase). And so as a school division we need to be prepared as soon as possible to move classes or entire schools online,” said board chair Trisha Estabrooks. .

The board asks the province for more help to keep the students in school.

School officials want staff to have access to COVID-19 PCR testing and Alberta Health Services to notify schools when there has been a positive case.

Administrators are also asking for clear guidance from the county about when it’s time to move classes online.

“That’s one of the frustrations. Previously, there were very clear statistics in terms of when we had to move or made a request to move an entire school online. Now it’s up to the administration to set their own benchmarks,” said Estabrooks.

The public school board website will eventually include absenteeism and positive case information.

The board hopes these details reassure parents that schools are closely monitoring the numbers.

The Alberta government delivered masks to the school board this week and they were sent to high schools.

Estabrooks said they are still waiting for smaller masks for younger students and quick test kits for families.

Last week, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange promised an online tutoring center for students in grades four to nine who need extra help with math and reading.

The first six pre-recorded tutorial videos were posted on Tuesday.

“Schools play such a vital role in supporting the overall well-being of students. Thank you to everyone in Alberta’s education system for their hard work to keep our schools safe for students and staff,” the minister tweeted Monday.

With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Matt Woodman

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