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Alberta Teachers’ Association president Jason Schilling said in an interview Wednesday the federal cash should not go towards budget initiatives that have already been announced, but instead toward hiring teachers to address concerns over class sizes and social distancing, as well as educational assistants and custodial staff.

“If (the provincial government) is listening to the people who are talking to them, then they should be spending that money that way. I would worry that this would fall into a bit of a shell game,” he said.

He also said there is going to be a continued need for more sanitizer and COVID-19-specific supplies throughout the school year.

“We still have a lot of pandemic ahead of us,” said Schilling, adding school boards can hire quickly based on enrolment needs.

Edmonton Public Schools board chairwoman Trisha Estabrooks said in a statementthe support is welcome, but the district remains disappointed the province has not provided additional funding support specific to school re-entry during COVID-19. 

“We do not have details on what this funding means for our division and our students. I strongly encourage the provincial government to involve school boards in conversations around how these funds will be used and distributed. We know our schools and students, and their needs, best,” she said.

At a Wednesday news conference, NDP education critic Sarah Hoffman said Premier Jason Kenney and LaGrange have done little to prepare schools and reiterated the need for adequate staffing and to cap the number of students in classes.

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