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Big news for Alberta’s students in pandemic update from Minister LaGrange

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Helping students catch up after pandemic disruption

As part of Alberta’s Recovery Plan, up to $45 million will support younger students who have fallen behind during the pandemic and more flexibility will be provided for students writing diploma exams.

Supporting reading, writing and numeracy skills for early learners

In May 2021, Alberta’s government announced $45 million would be available for school authorities to offer targeted programming to enhance literacy and numeracy skills.

School authorities have completed learning assessments to identify students who could benefit from targeted programming and now funds will be distributed at a per-student rate of $490.

School authorities have the flexibility to use this funding to design programming to best meet the needs of their students. Programming will be above and beyond classroom learning. The initial focus will be on students in grades 2 and 3, with targeted support for students in Grade 1 starting in February 2022.

“Many Alberta students had their education disrupted during the pandemic, which resulted in lost classroom and instruction time. We are committed to addressing this learning loss, and this funding will support students who need extra help to improve their reading, writing and numeracy skills. This grant gives school authorities the funds and flexibility they need to ensure each student is successful.”

Adriana LaGrange, Minister of Education

“This $45 million for student learning is welcome news as school boards continue to face a variety of unique challenges due to the pandemic. This will help boards support recovery from long-term effects of learning loss, based on local needs.”

Lorrie Jess, president, Alberta School Boards Association

“AISCA is thankful that the Government of Alberta is recognizing and addressing learning disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our association appreciates that the government has taken a proactive approach to remediate and target learning challenges in the early years of a student’s development.”

Simon Williams, president, Association of Independent Schools and Colleges in Alberta

Diploma exams

In response to feedback from students, parents and education partners about stress and anxiety around academic achievement exams, Alberta Education will temporarily change the weighting of diploma exams to 10 per cent from 30 per cent for the 2021-22 school year.

The ministers of Advanced Education and Education have sent an open letter to Alberta’s post-secondary institutions to advise them of this change and encourage them to further consider the impact the pandemic has had on students who are applying to their post-secondary institutions.

“Alberta’s students continue to face challenges due to the pandemic and I have heard concerns for our graduating class of 2022. I’ve heard feedback from students on my Minister’s Youth Council as well as from education partners that changing the weight of diploma exams will reduce the burden on students while still giving them valuable exam writing experience. We’re making this temporary change in recognition of these circumstances, which we hope will place less of a burden on these students.”

Adriana LaGrange, Minister of Education

“The College of Alberta School Superintendents is pleased with the Alberta government’s commitment to provide additional funding to support school divisions with addressing Grade 1 to 3 student learning challenges stemming from the pandemic. We’re also grateful for the Minister’s decision to reduce the weighting of diploma exams as it will support Grade 12 students whose learning has also been adversely impacted.”

Wilco Tymensen, president, College of Alberta School Superintendents

“As a member of the Minister’s Youth Council, it pleases me to see the Minister taking our feedback and concerns into consideration. As a Grade 12 student, the experience of writing diplomas is essential to prepare us for success as we consider post-secondary. Reducing the weighting of the exams will lessen the impact on mental health in youth while still ensuring that students are motivated to learn and understand the critical value of our education despite the effects of the pandemic.”

Tacey, member of the Minister’s Youth Council, Parkland School Division

At-home rapid tests

Alberta’s government is continuing to use all available tools to stop the spread of COVID-19. Beginning Oct. 27, at-home rapid test kits will be provided to schools with kindergarten to Grade 6 students across the province that are on outbreak status. The program is optional, free, and starts immediately.

Schools will provide the students and staff who wish to participate with 10 tests to take home, and they will be required to test twice weekly for five weeks. Testing regularly ensures testing is most effective. A how-to video for parents and a fact sheet translated into multiple languages offer tips on how to use the kits.

Quick facts

Programming support:

  • Of the up to $45 million in learning loss supports, approximately $30 million will be invested now to benefit students in grades 2 and 3. In response to feedback received from school authorities, up to $15 million will be allocated to students in Grade 1 in February 2022.
  • With this funding, in grades 2 and 3, approximately 38,000 students will receiving literacy programing and approximately 25,000 will receive numeracy programming, recognizing that some students would qualify for both supports. The number of Grade 1 program opportunities will be available after assessments in the new year.
  • Focused programming sessions are intended to be provided for up to 16 weeks. School authorities have the flexibility to design the length and frequency of the programming sessions.
  • Funds will be distributed on a per-student basis with a minimum funding amount based on the number of eligible students per school.

At-home rapid tests:

  • If a student or staff member has symptoms of COVID-19, they should not use a rapid test. They should stay home and book a test online with the Alberta Health Services (AHS) assessment tool or by calling 811.
  • Schools on outbreak must submit a request to Alberta Health to receive tests for this program.
  • If a student or staff member has a positive rapid test result, they must isolate for 10 days or until they have a negative test through AHS.

This is a news release from the Government of Alberta.

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Alberta

Alberta legislation would set up independent agency to investigate police complaints

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The Alberta government has introduced legislation aimed at making police forces more accountable and responsive to the communities they serve.

The Police Amendment Act introduced Thursday would establish an independent agency called the Police Review Commission to receive complaints, carry out investigations and conduct disciplinary hearings to do away with the idea of police investigating police.

Mike Ellis, the minister of public safety and emergency services, said the province has been consulting with Albertans since 2018 to come up with the first major overhaul of the Police Act in 34 years.

“One thing that came up consistently was the need to change how complaints against the police are investigated to end the system of police investigating police,” Ellis said.

“The legislation answers those long-lasting calls to reform the public complaints process by establishing an independent agency to handle complaints against police.”

The Alberta Serious Response Team will continue to handle all cases involving death or serious injuries, as well as serious and sensitive allegations involving all police services. Its mandate would be expanded to include peace officers employed by provincial organizations as well as community peace officers at the municipal level.

The legislation would also require all jurisdictions with a population above 15,000 currently policed by the RCMP to establish civilian bodies to oversee policing priorities.

The United Conservative Party government is deciding next steps following the release of a third-party analysis last year of a proposal to create a provincial police force instead of using the RCMP in rural areas and some smaller communities.

“No decisions have been made regarding the provincial police service,” Ellis said. “This is about ensuring that the rural municipalities have a say at the table under our current model which is the RCMP, who is the current provincial police service provider.”

Ellis said it could be another 18 months before the Police Review Commission is up and running. He said negotiations are underway with the RCMP to see how they would fit in under civilian oversight.

“Right now K-Division has expressed they’re supportive of this, however, we’re still having discussions with Public Safety Canada because it still falls technically under the RCMP in Ottawa,” he said.

“We’re going to continue to negotiate with the RCMP because we believe the independent body is the right approach and we can continue going down that path.”

The proposed changes would also require police to develop diversity and inclusion plans to reflect the diverse and distinct communities they serve and to better understand local community needs.

The Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police supports the changes.

“Changes to update our Police Act are long overdue,” said Calgary Police Chief Mark Neufeld, president of the association in a statement.

“We have advocated for several years that the act needs reform to bring it more in line with the realities of the modern police workplace,”

Edmonton Police Chief Dale McFee said the changes “will provide an additional layer of public transparency” that will benefit both the public and police.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 8, 2022.

— By Bill Graveland in Calgary

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Alberta

TC Energy shuts down Keystone pipeline system after leak in Nebraska

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CALGARY — TC Energy Corp. says it has shut down its Keystone pipeline after a leak in Nebraska.

The company says it has mobilized people and equipment in response to a confirmed release of oil into a creek, about 32 kilometres south of Steele City, Neb.

TC Energy says an emergency shutdown and response was initiated Wednesday night after a pressure drop in the system was detected.

It says the affected segment of the pipeline has been isolated and booms have been deployed to prevent the leaked oil from moving downstream.

The Keystone pipeline system stretches 4,324 kilometres and helps move Canadian and U.S. crude oil to markets around North America.

TC Energy says the system remains shutdown as its crews respond and work to contain and recover the oil.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 8, 2022.

Companies in this story: (TSX:TRP)

The Canadian Press

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