Progress Alberta Report #232 September 8, 2020

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Hundreds of students across the province have already been directed to stay home and self-isolate as coronavirus cases pop up in Alberta’s reopened schools.

In some cases, it’s a student; in others a teacher, support staff worker, a bus driver. In all cases the only possible response is to isolate everyone they’ve been in contact with and sanitize every room they’ve occupied. As I’m writing this, COVID-19 has been identified in 23 schools in Alberta. But given the virus’ incubation period, it’s too soon to know how many teachers and students may have been infected.

“It’s like jumping off a bridge and not knowing how deep the water is,” one mother in Calgary told the Globe and Mail’s Carrie Tait.

An increasingly embattled Dr. Deena Hinshaw, occupying the unenviable position of being the public face for the UCP’s school reopening plan, urged calm in her COVID public update yesterday. But just a week into the school re-opening, many classes are re-closing, like the Ross Shepherd School in Edmonton where nearly a hundred students have been ordered to self-isolated.

“I’m exhausted, devastated, furious, frustrated, scared, anxious, sad and so many, many more things all at once,” wrote one principal from Calgary.

The latest push from the opposition NDP urges the government that it’s not too late to reconsider the details of the reopening plan and reduce vulnerability to contagion by reducing class sizes. Technically, that’s probably true. But with this obstinate UCP government I think the die is cast. In a week or two, we’ll know whether or not the virus is spreading in our classrooms. Until then, it appears that the Alberta government has little to offer parents and teachers but frustration and anxiety.

With 619 new cases over the weekend, Alberta is facing more coronavirus infections today than it has since May 9th.

Edmonton Public axes controversial SRO program (for now)

In a surprise move, pre-empting the planned EPSB vote on the issue, admin at the Edmonton Public School Board have suspended the school resource officer (SRO) program which placed cops in schools.

Earlier this year, the EPSB heard testimonials from dozens of students and former students who had been impacted in a bad way by SROs. But at the time, a conclusive vote on the matter was delayed by trustee Ken Gibson. Since then more coverage has emerged on the program, including a bleak and thorough examination of the program by the folks at the Is This For Real podcast and research by the Progress Report that exposed the disturbing records of several former SROs.

The program is not gone permanently, but will have its fate decided at the conclusion of a review which is expected to take several months.


  • Edmonton’s continued mistreatment of unhoused people has provoked the emergence of a second tent camp, this one prominently set up just off Whyte Avenue. Spokespeople for this new camp allege, quite credibly in my estimation, that police and city employees have destroyed the tents and property of unhoused people while trying to evict them from the river valley. “Take them out of the River Valley, where they’re unseen — they’re going to be seen right in the middle of Edmonton now,” said a spokesperson for the new camp. Mayor Don Iveson has proposed a plan to rapidly end Edmonton’s homelessness problem, but it rests on a large demand for funding from the federal government–perhaps a bit more realistic than getting it from Jason Kenney, but still a long shot.
  • Alberta continues to bleed doctors, with the latest batch leaving from Sundre’s Moose and Squirrel clinic–five of the clinic’s eight doctors are leaving to work elsewhere. There have been few significant movements in the ongoing and acrimonious dispute between Alberta’s doctors and Health Minister Tyler Shandro, who continues to push for significant cuts to doctor compensation.

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Jim Storrie

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