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Alberta

Province shares plan for school relaunch

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12 minute read

Adriana LaGrange

From the Province of Alberta

 

Students returning to school for 2020-21 school year

Students will return to learning in classrooms across Alberta at the beginning of the new school year.

Schools will be ready to welcome students under scenario 1, which is near-normal daily operations with health measures.

Alberta’s government has developed a re-entry tool kit to prepare parents and students for what to expect in the new school year. The tool kit includes videos for students explaining some of the health measures, a guide for parents, frequently asked questions, school posters, a self-screening questionnaire in multiple languages, and links to health guidelines.

Alberta continues moving ahead with our recovery and relaunch plan. I’m proud of our comprehensive plan that supports the safe return to daily in-school learning. The return of more than 750,000 students to near-normal learning in the new school year is indicative of Alberta’s continued recovery as we work to relaunch our economy and return to our regular everyday lives.”

Jason Kenney, Premier

“We are determined to do everything that we can to safely return our students, teachers and staff to school. I appreciate the input and support of school authorities across the province, as well as our education partners, in developing and refining our school re-entry plan. We are providing clear and detailed guidelines and a re-entry tool kit so everyone can do their part and prepare for a safe return to school.”

Adriana LaGrange, Minister of Education

“We are committed to doing everything possible to protect the health and safety of students, staff and families during the upcoming school year. There is no risk-free approach to COVID-19 but there are also risks to children’s overall health from school closures. We are continually refining our public health advice for schools based on best available evidence. We also have plans in place to respond quickly when cases are identified. Limiting the spread of the virus in schools will require the dedication and support of all Albertans when the school year begins this fall.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health

Under scenario 1, schools will implement a number of public health measures, which include frequent cleaning of surfaces, placing hand sanitizers at school entrances and classrooms, grouping students in cohorts, and planning the school day to allow for physical distancing, which could include staggering start times for classes, recesses and lunches. Additional public health measures may be established prior to September on the advice of the chief medical officer of health in consultation with the education system.

In addition, students, staff, parents and school visitors will be expected to use a self-screening questionnaire daily to determine whether they can enter the school.

The Alberta School Boards Association is pleased that this plan was released earlier than expected as it provides more time for finalizing school board plans. We appreciate the various experts, parents and community members that helped inform a plan that prioritizes the health and safety of students and staff. ASBA and all school boards will work diligently to implement this plan and look forward to continuing to work with the Minister of Education throughout the upcoming school year.”

Lorrie Jess, president, Alberta School Boards Association

“The College of Alberta School Superintendents appreciates the opportunity to work alongside government and education partners to develop a detailed re-entry plan. The CASS board of directors strongly believes that the re-entry plan offers the appropriate balance of guidance from the chief medical officer of health and the government while providing for the authority and autonomy for individual school divisions to assure their students, parents and staff that a successful return to school will be safe.”

Bevan Daverne, president, College of Alberta School Superintendents

“We value the government’s efforts to actively work with the education system, including independent schools, as they finalized details for the 2020-21 school year. Re-entry under scenario 1 gives us the information and confidence we need to prepare our schools for reopening. We appreciate the requirements set out by the government to ensure that student and staff safety remains the priority as we navigate through these times to safely move closer towards a sense of normalcy.”

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

“The health of students and staff is the priority. In our recent survey on re-entry, 86 per cent of parents that participated indicated they were in favour of a return to school plan for K-12 students. Community efforts are essential to ensure a safe learning environment for our children.”

Brandi Rai, president, Alberta School Councils’ Association

“The Association of Alberta Public Charter Schools is pleased the government invested the time to engage with the education system as they pragmatically developed the 2020-21 school re-entry plan. This announcement provides Alberta’s public charter schools with the confidence and responsiveness they need to ensure a safe and successful return for the upcoming school year.”

Ron Koper, chair, The Association of Alberta Public Charter Schools

Successful transition to summer school and child care

Alberta’s school re-entry plan works, and already has mitigated risks to students and teachers. Throughout the summer, the Calgary Catholic Separate School Division ran in-person summer school programming in accordance to the guidelines developed and issued by the province. These comprehensive guidelines have mitigated risk, resulting in no COVID-19 outbreaks among teachers or students participating in summer school.

Additionally, Alberta has seen a successful reopening of child care centres across the province. Children and staff have safely returned to these centres with no outbreaks occurring.

School authority funding

School authorities have returned to full funding levels as of July 1, and every school authority in Alberta is receiving a funding increase for the 2020-21 school year – roughly $120 million across the province. A list of funding for every school authority is available here.

In addition, the Minister of Education has approved the use of school board reserves, if needed, to help cover local COVID-19-related costs. The total amount of money sitting in school board reserves is $363 million.

Accelerated capital school funding

The province has also provided school boards an additional $250 million to support accelerated capital maintenance and renewal projects, as part of the more than $10 billion infrastructure spending announced in the Alberta Recovery Plan.

This funding supports infrastructure enhancements that will help in a COVID-19 learning environment. Seventy-nine school projects totalling $15 million are moving forward with this primary purpose, including upgrades for enhanced hygiene such as hands-free sinks, automatic flush toilets, touchless soap and paper towel dispensers, automatic doors and water bottle filling stations to replace water fountains.

New online Student Learning Hub

A new Student Learning Hub on new.learnalberta.ca is available for parents, students, and teachers to more easily access educational materials to support development of student literacy and numeracy, and provide health and wellness information.

The online hub is another resource to support Alberta’s school re-entry plan, with recognition that more online learning resources may be needed during the upcoming school year. Additional resources will also be added throughout the school year.

Expanding diploma exams

Diploma exams will be offered in every subject in the November and April exam sessions. Expanding the offerings of the diploma exams will support school authorities who are shifting high school programming to a four-semester system as part of their COVID-19 re-entry plan. This shift allows for better cohorting by limiting the number of classes a student is in during a term without affecting total learning time over the course of a year.

Personal protective equipment

Students and staff may wear a mask if they choose to. However, practices such as physical distancing, cohorting, frequent handwashing, staying home when sick and increased cleaning of surfaces will continue to be the priority public health measures.

COVID-19 cases at school

If a student or staff tests positive for COVID-19, a public health team will investigate to determine when symptoms developed and support the school to minimize transmission.

While each case will be addressed based on its unique circumstances, it is anticipated that in most cases only the group of students and staff who came in close contact will likely be required to stay home for 14 days, and not the entire school population.

Parents will be notified if a case of COVID-19 is confirmed at school and public health officials will contact those who were in close contact with that person.

Transitioning to scenario 2 or scenario 3

If there is an outbreak of COVID-19 in a community or school, health officials will work with Alberta Education and impacted school authorities to make any decision to potentially transition to partial in-class learning or at-home learning. Decisions will be based on multiple factors including the number of cases in a community or school and the risk of ongoing transmission.

The health guidance for scenario 2 has been updated to allow for a maximum of 20 students per class.

 

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Alberta

‘I am sorry’: Man convicted in stabbing of Calgary chef apologizes at sentencing

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By Bill Graveland in Calgary

A man convicted of killing a chef apologized Monday and expressed dismay that no one with the victim’s family was in court to to hear it.

Tommie Holloway was convicted of manslaughter while his accomplice, Anthony Dodgson, was found guilty of second-degree murder in the death of Christophe Herblin.

Herblin was stabbed to death in a parking lot outside his soon-to-be opened Calgary café following a break-in in 2020.

Holloway, 33, told his sentencing hearing that he hoped his words would get through to Herblin’s wife, who wrote in a victim impact statement last December that the killing had left her broken and struggling “to make sense of this tragedy.”

“It got to me. Got me emotional,” said Holloway.

“I just wish they were here today so I could look at them eye-to-eye, apologize for my actions. I know no amount of words that I’m going to say is going to bring back their loved one, but I do want them to know that I am sorry.”

The Crown has recommended Holloway serve 12 years in prison. Defence lawyer Kim Ross said his client had no previous criminal record, has made efforts to turn his life around and should serve three to five years.

“I’m not standing here saying that imprisonment is not appropriate here. The issue is how long,” Ross told Court of King’s Bench Justice Blair Nixon.

“Mr. Holloway has clearly learned his lesson … and I submit with some degree of confidence that this court will never see Mr. Holloway back here again.”

Herblin was a longtime executive sous chef at the Glencoe Golf and Country Club, and his new restaurant was weeks away from opening.

Court heard Dodgson and Holloway broke into the restaurant with plans to get through a wall into an adjacent cannabis shop. They fled when a car drove by and returned later to continue their robbery attempt but became frustrated as Herblin had showed up.

Holloway smashed Herblin’s car windows in order to lure him into the parking lot. Dodgson attacked him and stabbed him nine times.

Herblin staggered to a nearby gas station for help and died shortly after police officers came to his aid.

Ross said Holloway had no knowledge of what was going to happen and immediately ran off after smashing out the car’s windows.

“Mr. Holloway at that point did not know what had happened. He did not know that Mr. Herblin was in the state that he was in and that he had gone to the Shell looking for help,” Ross said.

“He was leaving the scene of a possible break and enter. Certainly at the time of his leaving he did not know.”

Dodgson receives an automatic life sentence for the murder conviction. When the sentencing hearing began for both men in December, the Crown argued that Dodgson should not be eligible for parole for 15 to18 years. His lawyer asked for a range of 10 to 12 years.

The judge is scheduled to deliver his sentence for Holloway and Dodgson on Feb. 24.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 6, 2023.

This is a corrected story. A previous version said lawyers were recommending the time Holloway should serve before he is eligible for parole.

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Alberta

Feds will increase annual health transfer and offer targeted funding with conditions

Published on

By Mia Rabson, Laura Osman and Mickey Djuric in Ottawa

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will offer the provinces a “significant” increase to the Canada Health Transfer and additional money if they agree to one-on-one deals targeting specific problem areas in the health-care system.

A senior government official with knowledge of the plan said Trudeau will lay out a 10-year offer when he meets with the country’s 13 premiers in Ottawa on Tuesday.

The Canadian Press agreed to grant the official anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

They said the offer will include a top-up to the annual Canada Health Transfer, which Ottawa sends to the provinces each year with very few strings attached. This year Ottawa transferred $45 billion, which amounts to 22 per cent of what the provinces budgeted for health care.

The premiers want Ottawa to fund 35 per cent, which this year would have required $26 billion more.

Trudeau will offer more money to provinces that make one-on-one deals in specific areas, and with accountability measures attached such as setting targets for improvement and data sharing.

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos has previously said the federal government’s priority areas include improving access to family doctors, better mental health care, cutting surgical backlogs and a massive improvement to data collection and sharing.

The government’s offer will be made public but not until after it’s given to the premiers on Tuesday.

Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson, who is currently the chair of the premiers’ group known as the Council of the Federation, said the fact premiers haven’t seen any details yet is frustrating.

“If we had it ahead of time we could have had a more fulsome discussion tomorrow,” she said. “There’s no question about that.”

She wouldn’t say if the premiers are flexible on the 35 per cent ask, or what concessions or strings they are open to.

“We want to see what the proposal will look like,” she said. “We’ll go in with an open mind and then we’ll go from there.”

Trudeau said his government doesn’t expect to sign the same deal with every province.

“We recognize that different provinces have different needs and different priorities, and that flexibility is an important part of our responsibility,” he said Monday.

After Tuesday’s talks, Duclos and the provincial health ministers will meet to keep working out the details. There is no specific deadline but the hope is that a new deal will be in place before the next federal budget, which is generally tabled in the early spring.

The federal official said one of Ottawa’s key asks is that the provinces agree to common indicators and the collection and sharing of data, both with other provinces and with Canadians. They said it’s needed to better understand the extent of the problems and to be able to measure progress.

Former health minister Jane Philpott, who was in charge of the file in 2017 when the last federal-provincial health talks took place, said Monday that is a critical element of any successful plan.

In 2017, Ottawa signed bilateral deals with each province and territory to flow $11.5 billion over 10 years to improve mental health care and home care. The deals included an agreement that the provinces would annually report some common indicators. While that has happened, the data is often incomplete and assessing progress is difficult.

“As I look back on that, I would say that the agreements were not as specific as they could have been, and I think that’s the lesson to be learned on this round,” Philpott said.

“When the federal government puts more money on the table, there needs to be accountability for how that money is spent. I think this time I would advise being much more specific about those expectations and potentially even using legislative tools to be able to ensure that the outcomes will be what they need to be.”

She said that could include clawing back money if provinces don’t meet their obligations.

Philpott said the lack of information about how the health-care system is performing is a major issue, as is the lack of hard targets for progress.

An estimated six million Canadians don’t have access to a family doctor or primary care team, and Philpott said a hard target should be to make sure every Canadian has access within five to seven years.

But to do that we’d need to know a lot more about the doctors we have, where they are, and how many hours they work.

“We don’t actually know how many practising family doctors there are in the country, which is a shocking thing,” she said.

Health workers’ unions and associations began ringing alarms about the dwindling number of health-care professionals in the early days of the pandemic. Since then, worker burnout has turned a bad situation into a crisis. They say without a long-term plan to shore up their ranks there is little that can be done to improve the state of health care in Canada.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said Monday “any agreement that does not include clear commitments to hire more front-line health care workers would be a failure.”

The Conservatives have been hesitant to comment before seeing Trudeau’s offer but are concerned about the cost.

“What we’ve seen over the last eight years is that Justin Trudeau has thrown money at all kinds of different challenges and, in general, things are getting worse,” said Conservative MP Garnett Genuis Monday.

“When we see a proposal from the government we’ll review it, we’ll see whether the government’s actually going to get us out of the failures they’ve caused.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 6, 2023.

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