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Stoney Education Authority opts for scenario two for school re-entry

Stoney Nakoda students will return to school this fall with partially resumed classes and additional health measures on Sept. 8
Guests attend a mural unveiling at Morley Community School last November before a global pandemic swept the province. Stoney Education Authority announced it will be welcoming back students under Alberta's scenario two re-entry plan, meaning partially resumed classes and additional health measures. RMO FILE PHOTO

STONEY NAKODA – As Alberta prepares to get students back to school next month, Stoney Education Authority announced it will be implementing the government’s second scenario for the fall with partially resumed classes and additional health measures.

“Please note that as of today, Stoney Education Authority schools will be following scenario two guidelines for re-start for the 2020-21 school years, as per the provincial government guidelines, as well as preparing extra safety protocols and procedures for each individual SEA school, and creating handbooks and information sessions to be scheduled to provide information to parents/families with this information,” SEA Superintendent Bill Shade wrote in letter to the Nation Tuesday (Aug. 4).

Earlier this summer, Alberta officials announced three scenarios for returning to school.

Scenario one was normal classes resume with near normal operations and health measures. Scenario two meant partially resumed classes with additional health measures. And scenario three outlined the option for no in-school classes and continued at-home learning.

On July 21, Alberta Premier Jason Kenny and Minister of Education Adriana LaGrange announced the province would be ready to welcome students back under scenario one. 

“We are determined to do everything that we can to safely return our students, teachers and staff to school," LaGrange said during the press conference. 

"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.”

Included in the re-entry tool kit are 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.

The neighbouring Nation to Calgary, Canmore, Bighorn and Rocky View County is one of the first school authorities in the province to announce a departure from the provincially approved scenario one school re-entry plan.

Shade could not be reached for further comment, but in a press release from Shade last month, the superintendent outlined to parents that the Nation was preparing for scenario one or two.

“School administrators have been preparing for either scenario one or two," wrote Shade in a letter to the Nation. 

"Many plans will be in place to enhance the safety of all our students and will be ready for school on September 8 following Labour Day. There will be a number of extra precautions that will be implemented at all schools.”

“We will also be utilizing our local health departments and Nakoda Emergency Management to help guide us with safety measures and professional development for our staff regarding safety practices.”

During the July 21 press conference, Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said there was not risk-free approach to COVID-19, but noted there were 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,” Hinshaw said.

Stoney Education Authority manages four schools, two in the Morley townsite, Nakoda Elementary School and Morley Community School, one in Nordegg, Taotha School and one in Eden Valley, Chief Jacob Bearspaw School. 

As of Tuesday (Aug. 4) morning, the province also announced new a new health measure to make wearing masks mandatory for students in grades 4 to 12 and staff while in hallways, common areas or on buses. 

"While masks are important, I want to stress that they are only one of the many public health measures in place to limit the spread of COVID-19 and protect the health of students, staff and families,” Hinshaw said during the Aug. 4 press conference.