The Kids Go Back to School (it’s a matter of “balance”)  

“We’re on the cusp of a generational catastrophe. We need to prioritise children. And yet, for some reason, children are never prioritised. They’re the afterthought of a pandemic.” – Dr Tracey Vaillancourt, Chair, COVID-19 Task Force, Royal Society of Canada

On Jan 5, 2022, after a one-week delay, Education Minister, Adrianna LaGrange announced kids would be returning to in-class instruction because “experts agree and continue to stress the important of in-person learning to the overall health of children and youth.”

This is true, experts do agree that in-person learning offers academic, emotional, social, and societal benefits in addition to academic ones. School is more than reading, writing and arithmetic.

LaGrange also said the government has placed “a high priority on safe in-class instruction and making sure schools have the tools they need to continue providing a world-class education” to students.

There is very little evidence to support this.

Adrianna Lagrange & Dr Hinshaw

What did we get?

Over the last two years the government implemented the following tools/protocols for safe instruction: masking for grades 4 and up, physical distancing, cohorting, enhanced sanitization and hygiene practices, public reporting, contact notification and outbreak definition/alerts, and encouraged school authorities to have proof of vaccination policies for adults. We’ve had outbreak after outbreak, shut down after shut down, so to say these tools/protocols have been less than effective would be an understatement.   

On Jan 5, 2022, LaGrange announced two additional tools to ensure a safe return and quality instruction.

The first was a shipment of rapid test kits and medical-grade masks. Unfortunately some schools won’t get their shipments until Jan 14, four days after the kids return to school, and the number of tests each school receives will only last two and a half weeks.  

The second was a free online tutoring resource for kids in grades 4 and up. This tops up the $45 million earmarked to address learning disruptions for kids in grades 1 to 3.

LaGrange did not mention that the rapid rise in cases resulted in the government eliminating public reporting, contact notification or outbreak definition/alerts for schools.

Nor did she mention that many of the resources provided by the government to teachers and parents, including the 2021-22 School Year Plan and the Parent Guide and the translated versions of the Alberta Health Daily Checklist are out of date, or that the list of mental health resources, a hodgepodge of federal, provincial, and local resources, isn’t necessarily covid specific.  

LaGrange isn’t alone in touting the Kenney government’s “balanced approach”.

In Aug 2021 the CMOH, Dr Hinshaw, referred to the government’s “balanced approach” to the risks children face, noting we’d have to learn to live with covid in our schools.

She committed to closely monitor what happened after the fall term began and assured us she wouldn’t hesitate to consider additional measures and work with schools and local health officials in the event of an outbreak.

Six months later the CMOH is silent while the government removes existing measures like public reporting, contract notification and the protocol for defining outbreaks, leaving parents, teachers and students in the dark.

What do we need?

Alberta is a rich province in a privileged G7 country. If the Kenney government truly prioritizes safe in-class learning it would, as Sarah Hoffman (NDP education critic) said provide HEPA filters, N95 masks, carbon dioxide monitors, contact tracing, contact reports to parents, and funding for additional staff. Instead it’s eliminating some of our existing tools.

Furthermore if it wants children to grow up to lead productive, healthy, meaningful lives it would take a sincere, nonpartisan look at the curriculum because every grade is connected to the others and some parts of the curriculum may need to be lengthened or pushed into the next year to address the disruptions created by almost three years of start/stop, in-class/online education.* An online tutoring program simply won’t cut it.

Lastly, if the Kenney government won’t do it for the kids, it should do it for the economy. Education economists predict school closures of 14 to 16 weeks in a country like Canada can result in a six percent drop in GDP.*

The Kenney government should pull out all the stops to protect in-class learning, instead it’s exposing students and staff to the highly infectious Omicron virus and risking another shut down.

Alberta is the richest province in Canada, and yet it won’t take care of its children.

But you know Jason Kenney. It’s all about balance.

*Prof Prachi Shrivastava, associate professor of education and global development, Western University on CBC The Current Jan 5, 2022

This entry was posted in Alberta Health Care, Economy, Education, Politics and Government and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

42 Responses to The Kids Go Back to School (it’s a matter of “balance”)  

  1. Arlene Holberton says:

    Is Kenney letting children die or become disabled and using COVID as the culprit?

    • You raise a very important point Arlene. Even though Omicron appears to have less severe outcomes (at this point, we don’t know for certain) no one knows what the long term effect of covid is on children. One thing we do know for sure is that Kenney will have no money in the budget to address the growing number of Albertans who have/will suffer from the lingering effects of long term covid over the next decade.

      • jerrymacgp says:

        In the aggregate, it does appear that the Omicron variant is less likely to lead to the kind of severe COVID-19 disease that puts people in the ICU. But that is more than offset by its high transmissibility. Let’s say it is 25% as likely to put people in the ICU compared to Delta, but 10 times as many people get it. That still means 2½ times as many ICU beds filled with COVID-Omicron as with COVID-Delta. That will overwhelm our health care capacity.

        Why this government didn’t use existing systems of in-school immunization clinics to immunize the age 5-12 cohort is beyond me. AHS public health teams already go out to the schools on a regular basis to run routine immunization clinics every year. There’s no good reason I’m aware of why this couldn’t have been extended to immunizing for COVID.

  2. Dwayne says:

    Susan: Thanks for another great blog. The UCP obviously doesn’t have any clue as to what they are doing, and people’s lives are being put in jeopardy. The UCP can’t fund essential things, because they can waste and forsake billions of dollars on very costly mistakes. Ralph Klein was like that too.

    • Dwayne, what floors me is the Kenney government has no problem throwing money down the drain when it comes to the KXL pipeline or the War Room or the Allen Inquiry, but God forbid someone suggest the government spring for HEPA filters, N95 masks, and additional resources in schools to keep our teachers and children safe. Suddenly he’s not prepared to fork over a dime. This shows us what his true priorities are.

      • Dwayne says:

        Susan: True. Also, as I mentioned in your previous blog, the UCP wants to reinstate the flat tax disaster of Ralph Klein. This will only lead to a loss of revenue, and more austerity. Senseless. Just like the UCP’s corporate tax cuts, which had an estimated loss of $8 to $10 billion, and never gave Alberta any employment. The pipeline fiasco was over $7 billion, and an accounting blunder was $1.6 billion. It just goes on and on with the UCP. As for covid, the UCP hasn’t handled that very well at all, based on the numbers, and there are people who criticize the NDP, and they thing the NDP are trying to score cheap political points. There have been UCP MLAs who were criticizing what other UCP MLAs, and the leader of the UCP were doing. 2023, can’t come soon enough!

  3. ronmac says:

    Omicron is just a cold which will have little or no effect on the vast majority of kids. Time to get on with it and let kids be kids again and put this pandemic to rest. Kids have become empty vessels for adults to pour their neurotic paranoid obsessions into, no doubt fed by two years of non-stop Covid fear mongering.

    • GoinFawr says:

      “Omicron is just a cold” {Dr.ronmac’s peer reviewed citation required} Or is that just what Jason Kenney said, again?

      Actually, and as you likely well know ron’, there has been no need to ‘monger’ fear over the past two years since Alberta’s (and many other provinces’) ICU’s have been over capacity for months on end, despite the best efforts by the majority of responsible Canadians; that undeniably frightening fact stands as clear as an azure sky of deepest winter

      It seems to me that the real fear mongers of the last two years have been all the idiotic, anti science, anti vaxxers, anti maskers, and self important sociopathic misanthropes who are either so afraid of needles that they are keeping the pandemic alive and mutating, or are simply flat-out evil because they feel they can cause harm without consequences to themselves.

      • Carlos says:

        Well said GoinFawr

      • Ronmac: I’m with GoinFawr and Carlos on this one.

      • ronmac says:

        There is good reason to worry about this experimental vaccine. Unlike other vaccines which are trialed for years, these ones were rushed into production after a six month trial. Pfizer admits it has no idea about the long term affects. That’s not their problem. They are absolved from all liability.

        Vaccines have become the sacred cow of western medicine. To question them is an act of heresy. And yet that’s how science evolves, by asking questions. Yes, these vaccines are probably effective in reducing the severity of Covid among the elderly but for the rest of the population Covid has a 99.9% survival rate.

    • Carlos says:

      Ronmac with all due respect, this virus is not just a cold. You have the right to believe that but what you are saying is not reasonable. I would like to understand why you say it is fear mongering? Where is the fear mongering. I am sorry but I do not agree with you.
      I have to ask because I seriously do not like to see people making comments like that just because that is what some idiot like Jason Kenney or Trump said before.

      • ronmac says:

        With all due respect the rest of the world is calling omicron a cold. In Mexico they are calling it Covidcito (little Covid). The doctor in South Africa who discovered it can’t understand why we in North America are in a panic. What the rest of the world doesn’t understand is we have a media complex that’s geared towards fear mongering 24/7. That’s what sells.

        The truth is for 99% of us it’s just a cold and we’ll be over it in a few days.

      • Carlos says:

        Ronmac again you are simply generalizing at your own desire and believing it.
        Lets start by your ‘the rest of the world’
        First of all just because Mexico calls it Covidcito does not mean anything to me. Mexico has not been in the forefront of protecting their population from Covid at all and as far as I know the rest of the world including Western Europe, China, Russia, India do not consider Covid just a cold so what is your point? Mexico maybe be the rest of the world to your convenience but it does not mean that it is true.
        Secondly it is not true that it is safe for 99.9% of us and it is not true that the MRA vaccine is experimental. It took 10 years for MRA scientists to figure out this new process of creating vaccines. The covid vaccine was rapidly developed from that MRA process.
        Just throwing thoughts out there without much of proof of what you are saying is irresponsible and to me very dangerous.
        It is true that Pfizer may not know all of the possible side effects or long term consequences of any vaccine but that is true for all that we do in life. You have clear examples all around you. We are just facing the consequences of using fossil fuels and it does not stop you from driving your car does it? In fact it has been known for decades what the consequences are. We live by trial and error most of the times and we all understand that there are consequences to everything we do but somehow vaccines and covid became the number one choice for political brainwashing.
        We all know what the media and what the medical industry are but that does not give you the right to spread whatever you believe is true. Vaccines have helped the world survive great scares and I am one of the people that clearly remembers the polio pandemic when at least two friends of mine survived with horrible consequences to their bodies. So please spare us from what in Alberta has become an open cesspool of lies without any validity.
        Simply saying things without any responsibility is easy and it seems to be what you are doing. IF you want to debate it lets do it but spare us from Trumpisms that mean absolutely nothing. Having to live with Jason Kenney’s lies and cheating is bad enough for those of us that choose critical thinking to evaluate what is going on.

    • jerrymacgp says:

      Sir: you are somewhat correct, in that, statistically, children are — in the aggregate — less likely to get severely ill with COVID-19 than older adults. But, you are also dead wrong. The grieving parents of a child fighting for their life in a Pediatric ICU, or who has died, because “less likely” ≠ “impossible”, don’t want to hear those kinds of statistics. Every child is precious, and we can’t sit idly by as a society and tolerate one preventable death of a child.

      There is also the fact that children who survive COVID-19 have their own version of “long-COVID”. It’s called “Multi-system Inflammatory Syndrome in Children”, or MIS-C. It’s pretty rare, but again, the parents of a child with this complication would not be reassured by knowing their child is unusual.

      Unvaccinated children are an important reservoir for circulating this virus, which leads to continuing outbreaks and the emergence of new variants. We need to do everything we can to tamp down viral spread in schools, from public health measures to HVAC retrofits to mass vaccination of eligible age cohorts. But this government, which panders excessively to people like you, chooses to do nothing.

      • Carlos says:

        Well people like Ronmac do nothing when it comes to others, if it hits is family then the game changes and they get their lawyers out to get compensation. We all know the system and how it works. It is sad and horribly individualistic but true.

  4. Pinky says:

    Returning back to school will create a super spreader event which will lead to the most sickest people in the hospitals and again delay thousands of needed treatments and surgeries. We don’t have to be a scientist to know that but I can only think this is Kenney’s plan all along: burn out teachers and medical professionals in one fell swoop. History continues to repeat itself.

    • Carlos says:

      I hate to admit that I agree with you. It is sad that we have a premier we do not trust.
      Not agreeing with their politics is fine but it is way worse because it has to do with trust.
      I do not believe that Jason Kenney and many of his ministers are qualified or skilled to do their jobs. Furthermore the attitudes of lying and cheat seem to be pervasive.

    • Pinky and Carlos, I don’t know if you saw today’s press conference but on the very same day that Kenney re-opened the schools, Hinshaw announced daily PCR testing volumes were exceeding system capacity. Wait times for booking a PCR test are around 4 days and turnaround time to get test results back is close to 48 hours, so guess what…no one is eligible for a PCR test unless they have clinical risk factors for severe outcomes or live and work in high-risk settings. The case rate and positivity rates are skyrocketing, testing is unavailable to most of the population, but it’s still perfectly safe to send kids to school in an environment with no HEPA filters, no N95 masks, no rapid testing kits, reduced class sizes, and staggered start and stop times, to name a few preventative measures that would make schools safer. You can see where this is leading…and it ain’t pretty.

      • Carlos says:

        Very true Susan and it is obviously heading to where it did before and especially the best Summer Ever, except now we no longer have the real information that we need to make them accountable. Jason Kenney is again hiding behind his enormous ego and his absolute zero value brainless routine.

      • Carlos says:

        He is using his best ultra developed sense of reality – cheating by now hiding the information that matters. We will find our way into your cheating world do not worry.

  5. Sharon Hundert says:

    Once again the Unhinged chaotic party behaves in their reactive instead of proactive way. And the CMOH is silent either because she knows this is wrong or she doesn’t want to incriminate herself. When schools have to be shut down because all the teachers are ill and there can’t even be online schooling where will we be? When all the parents are sick who will take care of the kids? Doesn’t matter to little Jason he doesn’t know what it’s like to be a parent or a human being for that matter…

    • Sharon, I know of at least 3 families where a child has contracted covid and infected the rest of his family. These families are coping because (a) their relatives are close by and can help out or (b) one parent isn’t as sick as the other and they’re able to keep the family functioning until the other parent improves.
      We’ve now reached the point where the CMOH is telling us most of us are not eligible for PCR tests, we should be using an online assessment tool if we’re worried about symptoms, we should be using an online AMA tool to determine whether we need to see a doctor, but those with “mild illness” shouldn’t need to call or visit a doctor.
      Sounds to me like the Kenney government has crashed the healthcare system and we’re on our own.

  6. GoinFawr says:

    Jason Kenney:

    ‘Rolling coal’ in the faces of everyone in Alberta trying to make a difference for the better, and that’s just how the UCP base likes it, because they think cowardly assaults on the decent are hilarious (at least when they get away with it).
    https://www.cbc.ca/player/play/2408554139

    • GoinFawr: I assume the lunkhead driving the truck thought he was being cool. It’s quite pathetic really.

      • GoinFawr says:

        Not only is it grotesquely pathetic, it is a direct physical assault with all the legal culpability that that implies. Indeed, simply disabling the emission system that allows the abuser to create the toxic cloud is against the law, as you would expect.

  7. Linda says:

    Hi Susan: it is abundantly clear that Kenney & crew haven’t got a clue about how to react in a pandemic. At best it has been a highly embarrassing hodgepodge of conflicting statements, policies & abrupt turn about face reactions – that is when they actually are present to do this & not hiding from the general public taking ‘a much needed break’. The public, including the children, are on their own when it comes to taking preventative measures.

    I believe Kenney & crew are relying on the belief that children’s immune systems will weather the Covid storm. Whether that belief is supported by results is yet to be determined. Do children get ‘long Covid’? What are the long term effects of Covid on developing children’s immune systems, organs? I don’t know the answer to those questions & more to the point, neither does our government. Even the medical profession may not as yet have sufficient data to answer them. Meanwhile our so called leadership seems to be more concerned with ‘hiding the evidence’. Easy to say ‘we didn’t know’ when data isn’t being collected to provide the answers, no?

    • Carlos says:

      Loved your comment Linda – what you are saying is to me correct and important.

    • Linda, you made an excellent point in your reference to data. The UCP has a habit of not collecting data, or if they’re collecting it, ignoring it and not sharing it with Albertans. Today’s Globe & Mail had a classic example. Kenney said medical masks are good enough for students and teachers when they return to school, and that the N95s are “a lot more expensive…about $3.25 a piece versus about 80 to 90 cents for the medical-grade masks.” Then he said “we’d be prepared to spend that if the advice we had–the data–supported this.”
      Kenney’s comment appeared in a story where a number of experts ranging from a mechanical engineering professor to Dr Theresa Tam advised people to wear N95s instead of medical masks because they were so much better at protecting people from the virus.
      Bottom line: the “data” is out there. Kenney just chooses to ignore it.

  8. At this point I am going to suspend further comments from and to ronmac on this issue.
    The purpose of this post was to discuss the Kenney government’s plan to address the spread of the virus in schools.
    In my opinion the government has not done enough to protect children, teachers and support staff. Other jurisdictions and our own NDP Opposition have suggested additional safeguards which the Kenney government has ignored. As Dr Tracey Vaillancourt points out, this reflects the low priority the Kenney government has put on the academic, emotional, social, and societal well being of children.
    All of this is based on my acceptance of the science as it relates to covid and the value of the vaccines. Those who wish to debate these points can to so elsewhere on the internet.

    • Carlos says:

      I apologize if my replies were unwanted but I was trying to make sure any person that posts stuff that is not true it is challenged. Ronmac was not being offensive so I was comfortable replying to his posts. I thought the issues are very related so it seemed to be a valid debate. This is your blog and you make and enforce the rules and so I apologize if I crossed the line. I did not mean to at all.

      • Carlos, I fully understand where you’re coming from. No apology necessary.
        My concern wasn’t so much with your comments or the comments of others attempting to refute ronmac’s points, but the fact that the more we respond, the more we’re dragged down the rabbit hole. The science is out there. Some people refuse to accept it. They’re free to dispute the science on other peoples blogs, not here.

      • Carlos says:

        I fully understand
        Thank you

  9. JCurrie says:

    Kenney has, for cynical political reasons, taken every opportunity to downplay the pandemic so that he wouldn’t have to annoy or alienate his base. Think about that…not protecting or even handling a pandemic with basic safety measures which were called for at the beginning especially in the schools so he can protect his position. He tried to follow the Trump document which was to delay, ignore or minimize standard and evidence-based public health measures on the mistaken belief/wish that this would protect the economy. How is that going?
    Three things scare me for the future…the impact of long COVID treatment on our health care…these cases are involve multiple systems – cardiac, resiratory, nerve/muscle, cognitive and I am not confident that the :”just a cold” variant won’t add new cases. Secondly, how many nurses and physicians will be leaving this province after so much mistreatment, predating COVID. Secondly, considering the effects of not addressing COVID properly and the subsequent hollowing out of the heathcare system, how easy is it going to be for the UCP to privatize further.

    • JCurrie. these are excellent points. And look how that worked out for Trump. He’s now telling people vaccines are good, he’s been vaccinated, and everyone else should get vaccinated too. But it’s too late. Even his devoted followers don’t believe him.
      Trump, Kenney, and other politicians unleashed the beast, and now they can’t get it back. They pandered to the unvaxxed minority and the rest of us have to pay the price.

  10. Don says:

    Hi Susan,
    Thanks so much for the great article as always, you are on point. Have you seen the story on Twitter today about the potential connection between the lack of availability of rapid tests in Alberta and the private company Jack Mintz is involved with? This could explain why rapid tests seemed to have vanished into the ether in Alberta despite being readily available in other provinces. I hope that this story makes its way into the media, this really needs to be looked into.

    https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/1422012935879098372.html

  11. Dwayne says:

    Susan: Take a look at this. We’ve seen what has happened before, when the UCP ignored this type of recommendation.
    https://globalnews.ca/news/8504854/premier-kenney-declines-alberta-unions-call-circuit-breaker-covid-19-lockdown/

      • carlosbeca says:

        Yes Dwayne they just keep coming – political life can be an interesting project just like Royal Life. I keep a close look at political life in Britain as well and they are no doing very well either. Boris Johnston, the British Trump (not as sclerotic) is also in big dodo with a la Jason Kenney roof party type scandal while England was on full lockdown. Then further east we have Putin contemplating invading the Ukraine to make sure the Americans that always play their righteous card, do not install Missiles in the Ukraine under the Nato umbrella. So Putin to make the US understand what it feels like to have missiles at your doorstep is now threatening to install Missiles in Cuba again.
        This one alone could transform the pandemic into the best thing that happened to us in the last few years.
        Weird World my friend

  12. GoinFawr says:

    Out one side of his mouth Kenney will spout vehement outrage over Legault and Trudeau and a proposed antivaxxer tax, out the other he will tell you how he simply had to take away your presumption of innocence on that traffic ticket.

    So keep an eye on his sneaky little hands, because as usual while he bloviates about others PERHAPS ‘infringing’ on the ‘right’ of a small, woefully ignorant and stubborn minority, his grubby little paws are ACTUALLY signing into laws the removal of what once were EVERYONE’s rights.

    https://calgary.ctvnews.ca/critics-slam-outrageous-changes-to-how-traffic-tickets-are-handled-and-disputed-in-alberta-1.5730912

  13. JCurrie says:

    I have been taking care of a granddaughter who our family is trying to keep out of school. She wears good masks (btw it is hogwash that kids won’t/can’t wear KN95 masks – they are super comfortable and fit really well) and has two vaccines but has quite serious asthma….kids with asthma are much more at risk of hospitalization with this variant. It strikes me that Kenney doesn;t really care if kids or their teachers get very sick and may die (many more pediatric cases being hospitalized) or carry the virus home to their families and he is willing to minimize the fears and risks people have while he calculates how much he can get away with. He is going to do absolutely nothing and he likes it that way. Absolutely stunning and terrifying.

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