Province puts hold on return to class for students

·3 min read

As COVID cases increase, students from kindergarten to grade 12 across the province won’t be returning to school until Jan. 10.

The province made the announcement last Friday, but here in the South Peace, it’s mostly business as usual… so far. The return to classes in the Peace Wapiti School Division, and most of the Grande Prairie and District Catholic Schools, was not scheduled until Jan. 10 anyway.

GPCSD schools in Fairview were expected to return on Jan. 4.

“The extended break will give school authorities time to gather additional data to assess staffing implications and the potential operational impacts of the current COVID-19 situation,” said the province.

Other safety measures being taken by the province include delivering 8.6 million rapid tests to schools, which it says will ensure every student and staff member have about two five-test kits each.

Additionally, 16.6 million medical-grade masks are on the way to schools to create an eight-week supply for staff and students. The province noted both pediatric and adult masks would be supplied.

The time extension will be used by school authorities to prepare for a potential in-person and at-home learning scenarios.

Though diploma exams in January have also been cancelled, the province says a decision on the April and June diploma exams is yet to be made.

More information on the k-12 students' return to school is expected to come later this week from the province.

Post-secondary delays

Grande Prairie Regional College (GPRC) has decided to have a majority of its courses temporarily pivot to online learning. Some components of courses will still require students be on-campus.

As of Jan. 3, GPRC requires proof of vaccination from staff, students and community members who wish to visit any GPRC campuses or in-person activities.

Students failing to comply with the new policy can be disciplined in accordance with the Student Misconduct: Academic and Non-Academic Policy, while staff who fail to comply will be put on unpaid leave of absence or removed from service, according to the policy.

Residence tenants will also be required to provide proof of vaccination at the campus or face eviction.

The policy states it will be reviewed at least every three months to ensure it aligns with public health measures and regulations.

GPRC says that it will accommodate students, staff, or community members who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons or protected ground under the Alberta Human Rights Act.

More information can be found at www.gprc.ab.ca/risk_management/covid19/updates.

The University of Alberta hasn’t changed its start date of Jan. 5 for the new semester but says the majority of classes will be online for three weeks. As a result of this latest phase in the pandemic, the University of Calgary, University of Lethbridge and MacEwan University will also be starting respective winter semesters primarily online as well.

All have implemented a proof of vaccination requirement for on-campus activities.

Jesse Boily, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News

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