Alberta Politics
Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw and Education Minister Adriana LaGrange during last week’s Q & A session (Photo: Screenshot of Government of Alberta Video).

Platitudes or new plan? Education minister schedules news conference this morning on back-to-school plan

Posted on August 04, 2020, 1:49 am
5 mins

With the clock ticking down to a “near normal” mid-pandemic school reopening next month for three quarters of a million Alberta students, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange plans to provide an update this morning “on public health measures being taken for a safe return to school.”

So, is the Kenney Government — whose back-to-school plan has encountered fear and resistance among large numbers of parents and teachers — about to change course, or just offer more reassuring platitudes?

Wall of Alberta Moms and Dads organizer David Gray (Photo: Facebook).

The announcement sent to media yesterday isn’t terribly informative. It just says Ms. LaGrange and Chief Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw will be on hand this morning at 9 a.m. to chitchat with reporters who dial in to their virtual news conference. There’s no hint of what they’ll have to say.

Still, this suggests at the least that the government feels the need to respond to expressions of concern about reopening schools with no special measures taken against COVID-19.

One imagines United Conservative Party MLAs in every corner of the province have been getting a pretty clear message from lots of constituents that Ms. LaGrange’s plan deserves an F.

And that’s really not the kind of reaction a government should just blow off with a few reassuring words. This must even be true for UCP MLAs who are privately worrying about the obvious inadequacies of the plan themselves.

Not that either the premier or the education minister would be likely to pay much attention anything said by backbench MLAs, let alone public school teachers, but they might sit up a little more attentively when it’s rural voters from hard-core UCP ridings who are making the calls.

We’ll see.

A social media group inspired by the recent excitement in the streets of Portland, Ore. — a message of its own right there — calling itself the Wall of Alberta Moms and Dads has gathered more than 4,000 followers on Twitter since July 28 “to co-ordinate action against the Kenney Government’s unsafe plan for school reopening.”

They’re demanding the government reduce class sizes and increase spending on safety measures while the COVID-19 pandemic persists, and they can expect to be dismissed as an NDP front by the UCP’s troll army. Whether a large number of social media followers translates into effective action remains to be seen.

We want the government to know that there are hundreds of thousands of parents willing to write letters, write emails, phone MLAs, phone ministers and take to the streets to protect our kids,” organizer David Gray told Global News on Sunday.

With a presence on Twitter and Facebook, the group’s organizers promise a storm of letters, emails, phone calls and social media posts. Later there will be a March of Moms and Dads, they vow.

The back-to-school plan may sound sketchy to plenty of parents, but up to now the government has continued to insist it has the approval of Medical Officer of Health Deena Hinshaw for the way it intends to proceed, so everything is OK.

Dr. Hinshaw and Ms. LaGrange last appeared together on Wednesday when they held a short “town hall” on Facebook at which they answered a few questions and insisted they both felt confident about sending kids back to school in “near normal” conditions.

Dr. Hinshaw, however, has added the caveat that “while I believe this is the right thing to do for our kids, in general, each individual family needs to consider their own situation and make the right decision for them.”

Dr. Hinshaw, who has repeatedly recommended the use of face masks in indoor public spaces, has so far not said she would require students returning to school to wear them.

Maybe that will change today. Or maybe not.

In other news, the Alberta Government has now ended its program of giving away 40 million non-medical masks at the drive-through windows of franchise fast-food restaurants.

Why the government bought 40 million masks not suitable for use in medical facilities, or why they weren’t returned to their manufacturer in China if they were unsuitable for the purpose for which they were purchased, remains a mystery.

9 Comments to: Platitudes or new plan? Education minister schedules news conference this morning on back-to-school plan

  1. Dave

    August 4th, 2020

    Whether the school reopening plan deserves an F will be ultimately determined soon, not by any of us amateur or professional political commenatators, but by the cold hard numbers. The number of COVID cases, that is.

    It is not promising so far, increasing case numbers and a Premier who is doing his best don’t worry be reassuring impression. Perhaps the recent municipal mask rules will help where our dithering Premier has not, but that may only get us a brief reprieve.

    I can only hope the UCP will be more flexible and responsive to various constructive criticism on its plans for reopening schools than it has been in dealing with doctors. Digging in and blindly marching towards the abyss seems to have become a recurring bug, or is it a feature, of this government.

    However, if they do dig in their heels and things go badly in the schools, I have a feeling this could be an even greater threat to the longevity of this UCP dynasty want to be than its doctor deal mess up. We’ve seen elsewhere how badly it has worked for those who thought they could put the economy ahead of dealing with this health issue. Unfortunately, it is not a problem that can be wished away or minimized.

    • Simon RENOUF

      August 4th, 2020

      Here are the final lines from Pete Seeger’s anti-war anthem, Waist Deep in the Big Muddy:

      Waist deep, neck deep
      Soon even a tall man will be over his head,
      We’re waist deep in the Big Muddy
      The big fool says to push on

  2. Murphy

    August 4th, 2020

    It’s hard to judge which aspect of the Covidmania mass hysteria is the most vile, given that we essentially murdered a few hundred very ill and elderly people with the bizarre, unprecedented and clearly unwarranted protocols implemented in mid-March. But given the long-term harm to children who have no say in the matter, I think the prize has to go to the tremblers attacking the kids.
    Allthough they likewise murdered a swathe of elderly people with their own particular brand of Covidmania, Sweden at least didn’t turn on their children.
    “Separate studies by Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet (KI), an independent medical research institute, and the European Network of Ombudspersons for Children and Unicef, showed that Swedish children fared better than children in other countries during the pandemic, both in terms of education and mental health.”

    AHS Deception of the Day:
    “Not all cases of #COVID19 require hospitalization. Many cases are mild and can be dealt with at home.”

    Apparently 5.1% is now accurately described as “not all”. Not all lottery tickets are winners, in case you were wondering.

  3. Bob Raynard

    August 4th, 2020

    “…or just offer more reassuring platitudes?”

    David, I continue to appreciate you reporting something that received inadequate attention at the time, and has since been completely forgotten, and that is how our Agriculture Minister, Devin Dreeshen, spent an hour on a virtual town hall reassuring Cargill workers that their plant was safe to work in. He did this 2 days before the plant was shut. As far as I know he was never censured for this, which would suggest the UCP has no problem risking a few lives in order to keep the economy going.

    People really need to keep this in mind when they receive reassurances from Adriana LaGrange.

  4. Just Me

    August 4th, 2020

    LaGrange is one of Kenney’s ‘Stepford Wives’ — if he can’t have any other. And Dr. Hinshaw is the worst kind of enabler; she is no Fauci.

    So, there is this enormous stream of nonsense about school openings that will not sooth any of the fears and animosities towards the UCP. When other’s kids are involved, it officially becomes personal.

    They may as well have prefaced this statement with the following …

    “Premier Kenney is a middle-aged single male, childless, virginal, and will never, ever have any parental concerns. Sucks to be you.”

    • Murphy

      August 4th, 2020

      Praise be that Hinshaw is no Fauci. She still has not acknowledged that they enacted all of their rituals and socio-economic restrictions based on projections that bore no relation to reality, and she continues to pretend that we’re on the verge of turning into 1665 London. Literally every manner of malfeasance has gone on in the US with regard to Covidmania, from falsified case totals, to insurance fraud, to defrauding the government, killing people with ventilators to obtain stimulus money, ad infinitum. We were never in danger of the types of nonsense seen in the failed US, or for that matter, UK, states. I have a seven-year-old and a 24-year-old and my only concern with Covid is what Branch Covidians are doing to them with their cowardly, pseudoscientific, superstitious and kooky nonsense.

  5. Abs

    August 4th, 2020

    So here is the plan. I call it “Viva Las Vegas”. Each teacher and student will get two free reusable masks. Schools will get some disposable masks and two thermometers each. Some face shields will be provided (thank you to the sponsor who provided some free of charge to our impoverished government, because all the payola went to corporations). Oh, yeah, and schools get some jugs of hand sanitizer. No mention of free refills. Voilà. Done.

    Schools get no extra staff or nurses to monitor student health. Young children in K-4 don’t have to wear masks. Yes, they do sit three to a seat on school buses. And older kids can take off their masks at their desks, which will still be less than two metres apart in crowded classrooms of 30+.

    All those EAs and caretakers laid off in the spring? No money for extra staff. So it seems Adriana LaGrunge is now dumping school cleaning and student health monitoring on teachers.

    That’s quite an upgraded non-plan: from nothing to almost nothing. Now toddle off to your gingerbread house, education minister, and fire up your oven. I’ve heard some children might be wandering through the woods, and you wouldn’t want to miss them.

    Schools are supposed to act in loco parentis, but this “plan” is just loco. Something’s about to hit the fan.

  6. Bret Larson

    August 4th, 2020

    Of course parents are concerned about children going back to school. After all there is a pandemic happening. And unfortunately our society does not currently reside in eden. If more money is required education during a pandemic, maybe be shouldn’t have spent 10billion more then we took in while the previous administration was running the show.

  7. Carlos Beca

    August 5th, 2020

    Another show of total disrespect for anything public. The usual for a man that has never worked for private enterprise but hates everything public because of course he does not believe in society. We are all individuals born with sin and prepared to fight each other for the rests the super rich throw in their garbage. The usual Chicago School of Economics allied with evangelical ideas that serve no purpose to no one.

    Another circus of ‘We do not know what we are doing’ but we persevere and hope there are enough rednecks to support us in 2023.
    Good luck, you may just not have enough teachers or doctors for those who survive this Armageddon.


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