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Public School Board calls for cancellation of Provincial Diploma Exams

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From Red Deer Public Schools

School trustees from Red Deer Public Schools are calling on the provincial government to suspend Grade 12 Diploma Exams for the 2020/21 school year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Board will present an emergent resolution to the Alberta School Boards Association Fall General Meeting calling for the change.

Diploma Exams are a standardized provincial test taken at the end of Grade 12 level core subjects and count as 30% of a student’s final grade in a course. These marks are used to determine admission to post-secondary education, so they have a significant impact on students.

Provincial Achievement Tests are standardized provincial assessments taken by students in Grades 6 and 9 for core courses. The Minister of Education has made these optional at the discretion of the school board. Red Deer Public is finalizing its decision on whether these exams will be offered or not in the next few weeks.

“Teaching and learning for thousands of students around the province have already been interrupted when they have needed to isolate as a result of the pandemic,” said Board Chair Nicole Buchanan. “While our teachers support continued learning while students are away from school, generally for 14 days, we are hearing there are many students who have gaps when they return to school, they fall further behind creating significant anxiety for students facing Diploma Exams. We know this is an issue and concern for school boards across the province. Education Minister Adrianna LaGrange has commented they are monitoring the situation, but with some Diploma Exams coming up within weeks, a decision needs to be made now.”

While the government states early feedback from parents wanted a return to regular assessment, including provincial exams, that was early in the re-entry process. We are hearing increasing concerns from parents, students and staff advocating for the suspension of provincial exams given the uncertainty of COVID-19.

Schools are also concerned with the logistics of administering hundreds of Diploma Exams in a setting with a mix of students learning in school and at home as well as meeting physical distancing requirements. Running exams will be challenging, further diminishing the reliability of the results.

“Given the multiple challenges schools have faced this year, we are confident that in-class assessment by teachers will provide a true picture on student knowledge and understanding of course outcomes,” said Superintendent Chad Erickson. “We are hearing reports from students, parents and teachers that the prospects of Diploma Exams are creating a great degree of stress specifically related to COVID-19. Given their high stakes, as well as the uncertainty of COVID-19, it’s important to know whether exams are on or off. We don’t want Diploma Exams to disadvantage students—we want what is best for all students across the province.”

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Alberta

Urging political action, Cafe Owner Chris Scott instructs tens of thousands of followers to bring down Premier Kenney

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Shortly after Premier Kenney announced the latest covid 19 restrictions, a frustrated Chris Scott took to social media to vent and to urge Albertans to get politically active.  Chris Scott, owner of The Whistle Stop Cafe in Mirror may be a small town cafe owner, but he commands a huge audience of over 45,000 followers on Facebook.   Many of them are politically active.  Many others soon will be.  That’s if they take on the challenge from Scott who urged all Albertans to get involved with Alberta’s Conservative party and influence the local Constituency Associations to start a movement to close this chapter of Premier Kenney’s political life, the way the Premier will undoubtedly be closing another round of businesses who won’t survive this next round of mandates.

To see what else Chris Scott is up to, click here to see the Whistle Stop Cafe Facebook Page.

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Alberta

Vaccine mandate and province-wide restrictions

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New vaccine requirements and COVID-19 measures in Alberta

Alberta has declared a state of public health emergency and will implement new health measures to expand capacity, increase vaccination rates and reduce transmission of COVID-19.

New temporary health measures to help slow the spread of COVID-19 will apply provincewide. This includes new restrictions on restaurants, indoor gatherings, weddings and funerals, retail, entertainment venues, and indoor sport and fitness beginning Sept. 20. Measures in workplaces, indoor private gatherings, places of worship, schools and children’s activities, as well as mandatory masking and physical distancing in all indoor public spaces begin Sept. 16.

Starting Sept. 20, businesses or event organizers who choose to implement a program checking patrons for government-issued proof of vaccination or a recent negative privately purchased COVID-19 test will be able to have an exemption to restrictions. If a business or service chooses not to require proof of vaccination, they will be required to adhere to the new health measures.

“We are taking necessary and critical steps to prevent our health system from being overwhelmed and once again slow the spread of COVID-19 in Alberta. These steps are not easy for anyone, but with COVID-19 hospitalizations continuing to rise, particularly amongst the unvaccinated, we have no choice but to implement the proof of vaccination measures and temporary restrictions. We have overcome past COVID-19 waves and we will once again. I strongly urge anyone who has not yet been vaccinated to do so immediately. Please protect yourself, your loved ones and your community.”

Jason Kenney, Premier

“The new proof of vaccination requirements will make us all safer. This will help increase vaccination rates across the province and protect Albertans in settings that pose a higher risk of transmission. We’ve seen from other jurisdictions that proof of vaccinations do help encourage people to get vaccinated, and I am calling on every eligible Albertan to get fully immunized as soon as possible.”

Tyler Shandro, Minister of Health

“I know Albertans, especially those who have done everything they can to keep not only themselves but their fellow Albertans safe, are tired. But I’m asking you to please continue to do the right thing to help protect our health-care system and our communities. Please continue to make safe choices, get vaccinated if you haven’t already, wash hands and stay home when ill. Together, we will protect our health system and each other.”

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health

New public health measures provincewide

The following measures will take effect on Sept. 16:

Workplaces:

  • Mandatory work-from-home measures are in place unless the employer has determined a physical presence is required for operational effectiveness.

Private social gatherings:

  • Indoor private gatherings for vaccine-eligible, fully vaccinated individuals are limited to a single household plus one other household to a maximum of 10 people, with no restrictions on children under the age of 12.
  • Attendance at any indoor private social gathering is not permitted for vaccine-eligible individuals who are unvaccinated.
  • Outdoor private social gatherings are permitted to a maximum of 200 people, with two-metre physical distancing maintained at all times.

Places of worship:

  • Places of worship must limit attendance to one-third fire code capacity.
  • Face masks will be mandatory and there must be two-metre physical distancing between households or two close contacts for those living alone.

Outdoor events and facilities with no indoor portion (excluding washrooms):

  • No attendance restrictions, however two-metre physical distancing must be in place.

Schools (K-12):

  • Mandatory masking for students in grades 4 and up, plus staff and teachers in all grades. Schools that can implement an alternate COVID safety plan can be exempted from mandatory masking.
  • Elementary schools are to implement class cohorting.
  • For physical activities in schools:
    • Youth aged 18 and under are not required to mask or maintain two-metre distance when engaged in physical activity.
    • There are no restrictions on outdoor activities.
    • Indoor sports/performance/recreation/special interests are permitted with requirements for two-metre physical distancing, where possible.

Children’s sport/performance/recreation (extracurricular sports, performance, recreation and special interest):

  • Indoor activities are permitted, with requirements for two-metre physical distancing and masking where possible, and symptom screening for participants.
  • Youth aged 18 and under are not required to mask or maintain physical distancing during a physical activity, such as a team sport.
  • Spectator attendance is limited to one-third fire code capacity. Attendees must be masked and ensure physical distancing between different households or an individual who lives alone and their two close contacts.
  • There are no restrictions on outdoor activities.

Children’s activities:

  • Children’s day camps must have two-metre physical distancing between participants and masking indoors.                                                    
  • Children’s overnight camps must follow cohort models.

The following measures will take effect on Sept. 20:

Restaurants:

  • Outdoor dining only with a maximum of six individuals per table (one household or two close contacts for those living alone).
  • Liquor sales and consumption restrictions (10 p.m. sales and 11 p.m. consumption) apply.
  • Restaurants are eligible to implement the Restrictions Exemption Program.

Weddings and funerals:

  • All indoor ceremonies and services are limited to 50 attendees or 50 per cent fire code capacity, whichever is less.
  • No indoor receptions are permitted.
    • The hosting facility would be eligible to implement the Restrictions Exemption Program.
  • All outdoor ceremonies and services for weddings and funerals must be limited to 200 attendees. Outdoor receptions are required to follow liquor sales and consumption restrictions (i.e., sales end at 10 p.m. and consumption ends by 11 p.m.).
    • The hosting facility would be eligible to implement the Restrictions Exemption Program.

Retail, entertainment and recreation facilities (includes any indoor venues, libraries, conferences, rental spaces, concerts, nightclubs, casinos and similar):

  • Attendance is limited to one-third fire code capacity and attendees are only permitted to attend with their household or two close contacts for those living alone. Attendees must be masked and have two-metre physical distancing between households.
    • These facilities are eligible to implement the Restrictions Exemption Program.

Adult (over 18 years old) sport, fitness, performance, and recreation:

  • Indoor activities:
    • No indoor group classes or activities are permitted.
    • One-on-one training or individual workouts are permitted but three-metre physical distancing is required.
    • No contact between players; indoor competitions are paused except where vaccine exemptions have been granted.
    • These facilities and programs are eligible to implement the Restrictions Exemption Program. Specific exemptions may also be granted on a case-by-case basis.
  • There are no restrictions on outdoor activities.

Restrictions Exemption Program

  • Starting Sept. 20, vaccine-eligible individuals will be required to provide government-issued proof of immunization or a negative privately paid COVID-19 test from within the previous 72 hours to access a variety of participating social, recreational and discretionary events and businesses throughout the province.
  • To enter certain spaces that are participating in the program, including restaurants, bars and indoor organized events, people aged 12 and older will be required to show their proof of vaccination or a negative recent test result.
  • Businesses that implement the Restrictions Exemption Program would operate as usual, provided they are serving only people who have proof of immunization or who have a recent privately paid negative test, as per the requirements in place. This means they could immediately and without restriction serve any individual eligible for vaccination who:
    • Has proof of double vaccination (note that for a transitional period between Sept. 20 and Oct. 25, proof of a single dose would be considered acceptable as long as the dose was given two weeks or more before the time of service).
    • Has documentation of a medical exemption.
    • Has proof of a recent (within the previous 72 hours) negative COVID-19 test (either PCR or Rapid Test). The test may not be from Alberta Health Services or Alberta Precision Laboratories.
    • Those under age 12 would not need to provide proof of immunization or a negative test to enter a participating business.
    • This program would not apply to businesses or entities that need to be accessed for daily living.
  • Albertans can access copies of their COVID-19 vaccination records through MyHealth Records. For the time being, Albertans should avoid logging into MyHealth Records to download their records. The printable card, which was going to be made available on Sept. 16, will now be available on Sept. 19.

Get fully vaccinated

More than 79.5 per cent of eligible Albertans are now protected with at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 71.4 per cent are fully vaccinated. Vaccines dramatically reduce the risk of severe outcomes and the risk of infection.

Vaccines are the most powerful tool in the fight against COVID-19. Vaccine appointments are widely available through AHS or participating pharmacies and physician clinics. Book yours at alberta.ca/vaccine. First doses are also available at select walk-in clinic locations. Two doses provide maximum effectiveness and long-lasting protection.

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