Winter break extended for K-12 students
To support a successful return to school and provide additional planning time, the kindergarten to Grade 12 winter break will be extended provincewide to January 10.
The extended break will give school authorities time to gather additional data to assess staffing implications and the potential operational impacts of the current COVID-19 situation.
To assist with the safe return to classes, Alberta Health and Municipal Affairs’ PPE Task Force will also deliver 8.6 million rapid tests and 16.5 million masks to schools, starting the week of January 10.
To further support high school students whose learning is disrupted by this extension, January diploma exams have been cancelled. A decision will be made later in 2022 regarding April and June diploma exams.
“With the COVID situation rapidly evolving, so too must our response. This pause will give teachers, school administrators and school authorities more time to plan for students to return safely to learning. Under very challenging circumstances, I am very grateful to parents, students, teachers and education partners for their flexibility during the pandemic.”
Adriana LaGrange, Minister of Education
School authorities will use the extended student winter break to prepare for potential in-person and at-home learning scenarios, as they have done previously during the pandemic. Information and guidance to support school authorities and parents is available on alberta.ca/returntoschool.
With this change, we are responding to concerns from Education stakeholders and aligning Alberta with other provinces in Canada. A pause will also help school authorities plan for changes in testing and contact notification.
The rapid test distribution will offer enough rapid tests to provide two five-test kits to each student and staff member across the entire education system. Distribution is being finalized and more information will be shared next week.
Medical-grade masks will also be distributed through schools to students and school staff through a phased approach. When fully distributed, staff and students will receive an eight week supply. Both pediatric and adult medical grade mask distribution will be coordinated in a phased approach through Municipal Affairs’ PPE Task Force and more information will also be shared next week.
More information on next steps related to whether students will learn in class or at home beginning January 10 will be communicated late next week. The decision will be evidence-based using operational information provided by school authorities, case information and other available health data.
Listen to the news conference (available after the event)
NDP Deputy Leader Sarah Hoffman issued the following statement following today’s Alberta public health update:
“Alberta’s NDP is glad that the return to classes is being delayed. Clearly, the government isn’t ready with a plan to keep students and staff safe.
“We are also glad to see the cancellation of diploma exams. This was something we have been calling for and I’m glad the government finally listened. With all the uncertainty, the last thing students need is the stress of a diploma exam.
“Still, we don’t have a plan. Nothing of the sort. We need to properly staff schools. This government has failed to do this every step of the way during the pandemic.
“This Education Minister actually fired thousands of education assistants in the first wave of COVID. Some of those Albertans left the profession, some left the province. I am left to wonder the valuable role they could play in educating students now.
“We also need a plan to bolster PPE in schools. Teachers need N95 masks. That has been clear for sometime. Those must be available for every teacher and student by January 10. The minister didn’t commit to N95s and that should be a first.
“We also need to see the installation of HEPA filters and upgraded HVAC systems that so many parents and the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists have called for. This can be done. It’s been done elsewhere. COVID is clearly airborne, whether the UCP wants to admit it or not.
“We also need to understand needs of schools right across the province and flow emergency funding to address those.
“This is going to be so hard on families and the critical learning of students. Again, we continue to call for more funding to be flowed directly to families to help pay for at-home learning resources.
“Household budgets have already been hammered so hard by this government. Parents cannot bear the additional costs for emergency childcare or at home learning supports.
“Those are just some of the emergency measures we need to give our schools and the people working inside of them a fighting chance come January 10.
“To teachers, principals, educational assistants, custodians, bus drivers and the list goes on… I want to tell you that I hear your concerns and I know you would do anything for your students. Thank you for all you have done and will do in the challenging weeks ahead.
“To parents, I know this is so frustrating. The government waited far too long to make this announcement and now you’re left to scramble yet again due to their incompetent leadership.
“Alberta’s NDP is listening and we will keep amplifying your voices pushing this government to act.”