Substitute teachers say they don’t want to risk extra COVID-19 exposure

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“There’s no guarantee of hours of work, benefits or anything, not to mention how many different schools, classrooms and children that I will come into contact with as a substitute,” she said.

A government spokesperson was unable to provide comment as of press time.

While the UCP government has said it would be “infeasible” to cap class sizes at 15 because it would require 13,000 new staff hires and 13,000 new classrooms by September, Hoffman said there are plenty of certified teachers and educational assistants in Alberta who want to help under a safe plan.

The government cut $128 million in April at the start of the pandemic while in-person classes were cancelled, which led to districts temporarily laying off more than 20,000 educational assistants, support staff, bus drivers and substitute teachers.

That provincial funding was later restored, but budget restrictions forced the permanent layoffs of more than 600 Edmonton Public Schools full-time equivalents — 137 at Edmonton Catholic.

On Aug 4., LaGrange committed $10 million towards two reusable masks for every student and staff member in Alberta, hand sanitizer, and contactless thermometers.

Hoffman didn’t offer a number of teachers who would be needed, but said the government must boost funding to school boards to staff up and space out – and at the very least be able to rehire those who were laid off, Hoffman said.

“They haven’t even tried,” said Hoffman.

Schilling said the association will likely have between 1,200 and 1,500 fewer teachers this fall, “so there is room to hire teachers back.”

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