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.
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.
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.
More corporate meetings to go virtual after success during pandemic
CALGARY — Any shareholder who’s ever endured hours of travel to attend a company’s annual meeting is in for good news in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Experts say the success of AGMs taken virtual this year will likely translate into more options for online and teleconference participation at future events — provided that some technical bugs can be ironed out and with the caveat that full shareholder participation is necessary.
Most corporations are required to meet once a year with their shareholders to deal with routine matters such as electing the board of directors, choosing an auditor and approving the minutes of the last meeting. There is typically a presentation on company accomplishments from the CEO, and shareholders usually have an opportunity to ask questions.
The pandemic’s eruption at the start of AGM season this year forced many companies to cancel their in-person events and figure out how to use technology for a virus-free meeting. The online migration was a scramble for most, as Canadian organizations have been much slower to adopt virtual meetings than their counterparts in the United States. Before this year, only a handful of Canadian companies had done so.
Nonetheless, most of the response to the virtual meetings has been positive, in part because shareholders recognize the unusual circumstances, said Kevin Thomas, CEO of the Shareholder Association for Research and Education (SHARE), a Canadian not-for-profit advisory firm that often helps sponsor minority shareholder proposals to be voted on at AGMs.
“The challenge is that participation at some of these (virtual) meetings has been limited — the ability to ask questions has been limited by the company to either written questions in advance or sometimes no questions,” he said. “In some cases, the ability to log in has been quite complicated.”
He added the virtual events lack some intangible benefits to attending a meeting in person, such as being able to have informal chats with directors, company executives and fellow shareholders.
“I think there are some bugs to work out. But the potential for online meetings, if they allow for full shareholder participation, is actually probably positive.”
As of July 28, 583 AGMs had been held by companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, according to figures compiled by Hansell LLP of Toronto, a corporate advisory law firm. That’s down almost 22 per cent from the same time last year, as some companies took advantage of pandemic-related deadline extensions offered by regulators.
Hansell partner Susan Kushneryk said she expects more virtual AGMs will take place in the future for two reasons — people may be hesitant to attend crowded events even if the pandemic is under control and the convenience of being able to dial in or catch a meeting online has now been well demonstrated.
“If you’re invested in a company based in Calgary and you live in Kelowna (B.C.), now, if that company is having a virtual AGM, it may be you’re able to attend for the first time since you’ve held those shares,” she said.
“So there’s a real benefit there.”
Virtual AGMs in Canada and the U.S. were generally well operated and well-received by shareholders but there were also a few instances where technology failed or meeting organizers “turned off the mic” to stymie troublesome input, said Peter Kimball, head of North American advisory services for Maryland-based ISS Corporate Solutions.
“There are some high-profile examples of big companies’ (AGMs) that either shareholders had difficulty getting in or they had difficulty finishing what they wanted to say,” he said, adding investors remain “wary” of the use of the technology in future meetings.
In Canada, Hansell found 54 per cent of the meetings were virtual only, which means that shareholders could attend remotely by phone or computer but couldn’t vote or ask questions in real time. Votes were collected ahead of the meeting.
About a quarter — 26 per cent — were traditional physical AGMs, where shareholders could vote ahead of time or attend in person to vote or ask a question.
Thirteen per cent of the meetings were what it called “limited hybrid,” where participants could remotely ask questions but couldn’t vote. Just two per cent were the “full hybrid” model, where participants could vote and ask questions at the meeting, whether in person or remotely.
Technology itself was a barrier at times, Kimball said.
Some meetings had to be rescheduled because of “plumbing issues,” he said — the company providing the service didn’t have enough bandwidth to actually do the job, though that shortcoming likely could be addressed in future.
He added that activist shareholders who sponsor proposals on topics such as executive compensation or setting environmental targets are as split on the subject of remote meetings as the rest of the shareholders — some love them and some hate them.
Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corp. has allowed investors to participate in person and remotely in its annual general meetings since 2018 but its AGM in early May had to be made virtual format only because of restrictions on large public gatherings.
It has vowed to return to its full hybrid meeting format next year.
“Our total meeting attendance actually went up in 2020 compared to our hybrid (physical and in-person) meeting in 2019,” said spokeswoman Kathy du Plessis in an email, adding the feedback from shareholders has been positive.
“Excluding Barrick personnel, this year we had 152 attendees on the online portal compared to 100 in total in 2019, 42 people at the physical meeting and 58 people online.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 3, 2020.
Dan Healing, The Canadian Press
Man dies after being found in North Saskatchewan River southwest of Edmonton
EDMONTON — A 53-year old man has died after he was found in the North Saskatchewan River near Edmonton.
RCMP say officers responded to Devon Voyageur Park near the Highway 60 bridge southwest of Edmonton just before 4 p.m. Sunday.
Cpl. John Pike told CTV News that police received a call about a man who was floating in the river.
Police and firefighters used a boat to get the man out of the river and he was rushed to a nearby hospital in critical condition.
The man was declared dead in hospital.
Police say there’s no evidence of foul play in the man’s death and no further information will be provided.
(CTV Edmonton, The Canadian Press)
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on Aug. 3, 2020.
The Canadian Press
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