I sat down with @AdrianaLaGrange today for a 45-minute chat about back to school. We discussed a lot, here are some bullet points:
With outbreaks and hundreds of students in isolation, can we really say this school year has been a success? LaGrange says it's just the start of the school year and the cases in schools were not contracted in schools, they were from the community. #ABEd
Why not just hire more teachers to reduce class sizes, isn't that cost worth it? LaGrange says it isn't about the cost, it's about whether there are tens of thousands of teachers out there. She says school divisions have been enabled to do what they need to do. #ABEd
One sticking point is funding not being the same as years past, shouldn't you be spending to keep kids safe in a pandemic? LaGrange says the province has spent money on masks, hand sanitizer, etc. #ABEd
We then drilled down into funding per student and how it's less than years prior. LaGrange says the funding formulas can't be compared bc they're apples and oranges. She says there is $120 million more (but that's only more than last year, it's down from 2 years ago) 1/2
She then said there's capital infrastructure maintenance dollars and they added $263 million from the feds (to which I pointed out that's federal money, not money from the province). Her response was "there's only one taxpayer". #ABEd
As for the perception then that the province doesn't want to spend money on students in a pandemic? LaGrange says that isn't true and points to how school boards can use their reserves. #ABEd
At what point then will the province step in with more funding? She says school boards feel they have the adequate resources they need at this time. #ABEd
Thoughts on photos showing packed hallways in #yyc? LaGrange says students are wearing masks when they can't distance. (But Dr. Hinshaw says crowded environments should be avoided even if wearing masks) LaGrange says there are occasions where masks are required. #ABEd
So would you feel comfortable with your grandkids being in an environment like that? LaGrange doesn't answer the specific question but says she's comfortable with children following health guidelines to mitigate risk and transmission. #ABEd
As for whether she's been inside a school? LaGrange says no because of restrictions from school divisions. (But you're the education minister, shouldn't you?) She says she would go if invited (which she has been before) and says it's up to the school board to offer that to her.
An Angus Reid poll shows 35% of Albertans approve of the back to school plan (compare that with 45% across the country). How responsible are you for these numbers? LaGrange says school divisions are doing everything possible and the numbers that matter are down the road.