Opinion: Base Alberta’s back-to-school plan on evidence, not ideology

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This leaves two possible scenarios: First, that the government made its recommendations on school reopening without sufficient review of the evidence. Or, second, that the evidence exists but is not publicly available. We need clarity on which of these scenarios are true.

Albertans want a back-to-school plan that reflects the best practices already learned from other jurisdictions: establishing student cohorts in smaller groups, physical distancing, frequent handwashing and increased hygiene, and increasing ventilation. Guidance from Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto and Canada’s Public Health Agency both recommend physical distancing as much as possible, even within a cohort.

The problem is that this costs money. Though reducing class sizes has long been recognized as an important predictor of educational success, the provincial government not only axed targeted funding for this, it even stopped tracking class sizes. This means that not only is the government not investing in the single most important mechanism for reducing COVID spread, it is not even tracking the relevant data. Most glaringly, despite an overwhelming groundswell of frustration from parents and teachers, the provincial government has remained largely silent.

These are decisions that transcend politics and ideology. They must be made based on the best evidence available. The provincial government’s protracted war against doctors demonstrates their tone-deaf approach to governing during a pandemic. Their deeply flawed curriculum review at a time when they should be focused on safe reopening beggars the imagination.

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