Alberta: Premier Danielle Smith defends prohibition on school mask mandates

by The Canadian Parvasi

A day after Danielle Smith announced a ban on schools enforcing mask mandates and fully transitioning to online learning, the Alberta Premier doubled down on the provincial government’s decision.

“We need a normal school environment for our children, and we need to make sure that the classrooms stay open to be able to support our parents. That’s why we made the decision that we did — to give that clear direction,” asserted Smith, addressing a news conference.

Smith cited that a complete switch to online-only learning may have adverse effects on the mental health of students and parents, with parents having to worry about making childcare arrangements when schools shut down.

“Anyone is welcome to wear a mask if they feel that that is the right choice for them, but we should not be forcing parents to mask their kids, and we shouldn’t deny education to kids who turn up without a mask, ” she added.

Trisha Estabrooks, Board Chair for Edmonton Public Schools, welcomed the decision stating that it provided clarity.

“All Albertans now understand that it’s not within the jurisdiction, and nor should it ever have been within the jurisdiction of individual school boards, to make decisions that belong to health officials,” said Estabrooks.

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Sandra Palazzo, board chair for Edmonton Catholic Schools, seemed to also second Smith’s decision stating, “We also really appreciate that we continue to have those opportunities to have discussions with the ministry, should there be any extenuating circumstances that may arise…”And [we’re] also further pleased that the Public Health Act will take precedence over the Education Act should there be reason to take stronger measures.”

On the other hand, The Head of the Alberta Teachers’ Association, Jason Schilling argued that the provincial government should have consulted school boards before taking the decision, given that schools are struggling to manage classrooms as well as absences due to the rise in respiratory diseases.

“You have schools that are struggling to staff the building, [they] can’t get substitute teachers, teachers are sick, they’re covering each other’s classes, principals are covering the classes…And then to say if you go online, you are to still offer the same programming in person — we just don’t have the people to do that, “argued Shilling.

Effective immediately, the decision by the provincial government applies to grades 1 through 12 in all school settings, wherein schools will have to offer some form of in-person classes and will not have the authority to enforce a mask mandate.

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