Red Deer Public School Division

Board of Trustees sends letter to our MLAS including the Minister of Education expressing frustration

Following a Special Board Meeting held on Monday, September 6 to review enhanced health restrictions related to COVID-19, Red Deer Public Schools Board of Trustees sent a letter to Red Deer North MLA and Minister of Education Adriana LaGrange and Red Deer South MLA Jason Stephan regarding significant frustrations on why school boards were put into the position of making health decisions, further resulting in division in communities across the province.

Please see the letter in italics below.

Dear Minister LaGrange & Mr. Stephan,

At a special meeting held on Monday, September 6, 2021, the Board of Trustees updated COVID-19 health guidelines for our schools given your government's announcement on Friday, September 3.

While province-wide restrictions require mask wearing in all public places, the updated guidelines indicate schools are not required to implement masking, but school boards will continue to set COVID-19 management policies as they deem appropriate. Schools are very public places. We cannot understand why they were not included within restrictions for public places, particularly given the increased risks facing those under 12 years of age. Please share the rationale for this.

Why are school boards making health decisions? As part of Red Deer Public’s discussions, the Board of Trustees expressed significant frustrations on why school boards were put into the position of making decisions of this nature and further resulting in division across communities in the province. The Board unanimously passed the following motion to make these concerns known:

MOVED that the Board of Trustees communicates with the Government of Alberta expressing its significant concerns and frustrations on the decision making process imposed on school divisions and the lack of leadership by the government related to mask use and other COVID-19 health restrictions within schools, resulting in greater uncertainty and increased division within our communities and across the province.

Red Deer Public Schools is a fierce defender of local autonomy when it comes to making education decisions that impact the Red Deer community. As you know, and regrettably so, local autonomy has been significantly eroded by provincial governments and we believe this has had a negative impact on public education.

Red Deer Public Schools will do everything it can to ensure local autonomy provides the best decision making for students and families in our communities. In this situation, however, your government abdicated what was rightfully within the purview of government and public health, laying it on the feet of school boards. In doing so, you have further caused and increased division and frustrations in communities across Alberta which is having a negative impact on the teaching and learning of students, who have already been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Should the government wish to identify areas where local autonomy is best held in the hands of locally elected school boards to better the education of students in local communities, we would welcome the opportunity to affect those changes!

We recognize the pandemic has been a significant challenge for all governments and has resulted in challenging decisions. We empathize with the position the government has been in. But it also does require leadership and making those difficult decisions in areas that are your responsibility. Clearly, this was one of those decisions best left with you.

We understand these are challenging times, but we are Alberta and with that comes strength. We are a province who rises above adversity, faces challenges head on, uniting together in difficult circumstances. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a divided and hurting province, some of that because of decisions made by the government. Leaving health decisions to 61 different school divisions, further created division and chaos.

As history has shown, true leadership is about bringing people together under the most challenging circumstances. It’s about making decisions with people, not for people. It takes leadership done with purpose and intention. Now more than ever, we need that kind of leadership. We call on this government to take a positive leadership role and help Alberta continue to shine as an exceptionally great place to live, work, grow and of course, learn.

Sincerely,

 

Nicole Buchanan

Board Chair