Planning for school re-closure: We can’t say we weren’t warned

Alberta Education Pandemic Planning GuideThe in the Pandemic Planning Guide for Alberta School Authorities, published by the Alberta government there is ample helpful guidance for school administrators and other educational leaders.

Of particular interest right now is Schedule K of the guide: Draft letter to inform parents schools are reopened. We want to pay particular attention to this statement: “… If more people get sick, schools may need to close again.” (p. 64).

So if (when?) schools are closed down again sometime in the 2020-2021 school year, we can’t say we were not warned. This was anticipated in the pandemic planning guide.

Published 7 years ago.

That’s right. This guide was published in 2013, long before most of us even knew what a coronavirus was. In the draft letter to parents, school administrators were guided to prepare parents for the possibility schools needing to close again after re-opening (p. 64).

Other points of note:

“… it is possible employee absenteeism could be in the 30% to 40% range, with at least 20% absenteeism being likely.” (p. 10)

Your influenza pandemic plan is a living document. It needs to be reviewed and revised regularly.” (p. 12) (Note: To the best of my knowledge, the guide has never been updated since it was written.)

Employers could be liable, through possible claims in negligence. Lawsuits could be initiated by students, staff, or third parties who have been harmed.” (p. 14)

the plan should provide for significant staff absences and assess whether the School Authority could provide educational services in the event of staff/student absences. The plan should also take into consideration how the School Authority would continue to operate without a full complement of staff.” (p. 24)

Also important is what is missing from the planning guide. The words “Indigenous”, “First Nations” or “Aboriginal” (with the latter two terms being more common at the time the document was published) are utterly absent from the document. This indicates that at the time the plan was developed, there were no particular considerations made for Alberta’s Indigenous communities.

So, as we are preparing for re-opening, we would be wise to prepare for the possibility of re-closing again, too.

Read the whole planning guide here:

Government of Alberta. (2013). Pandemic Planning Guide for Alberta School Authorities. Retrieved from https://education.alberta.ca/media/1477307/pandemicplanningguide.pdf

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Sarah Elaine Eaton, PhD, is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, and the Educational Leader in Residence, Academic Integrity, University of Calgary, Canada. Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the University of Calgary.

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