Alberta students will be headed back to in-class learning next week.
Education minister Adriana LaGrange says the decision comes after a great deal of discussion with school divisions around the province.
"ECS and kindergarten to grade 12 students will return to classrooms on January 10th," LaGrange says. "Children who learn in person belong in the classroom and they will be there with the added safety of rapid tests and medical-grade masks."
She says shipments are going out this week and all school divisions should have them soon.
LaGrange points out these measures go along with previous measures put in place including vaccination policies for staff, masks, distancing, and enhanced cleaning measures.
"In making this decision we looked very carefully at information from school authorities as well as health data," LaGrange said.
"We also considered other jurisdictions in Canada who are doing similar things such as B.C. and Manitoba. Experts across Canada and around the world continue to express the importance of in-person learning to the overall health of our children and our youth. "
Students in grades four to nine, and their parents, will be able to access free online tutoring resources starting next week to help any students who are having issues after being in and out of the classroom last year.
On the issue of air quality in classrooms and the issue of Hepa filters, the minister says the province has already provided lots of money to school divisions for upgrades to their buildings, including heating and air systems, making sure they're in good working order.
LaGrange says school divisions will be able to shift individual classes or grades to short-term at-home learning if need be but will need government approval for a whole school to get locked down.
Alberta's Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw says the province's approach balances the many competing risks children face and she strongly urges students in all grades to wear masks, including those in kindergarten to grade three.
"I also want to advise Albertans that we will be moving to a different approach for school reporting that reflects the current situation. Alberta is now focused on investigating cases in high-risk settings, like continuing care and those who work in health care," Dr. Hinshaw said.
"Other cases including in students and school staff, will still be notified of their own test result and they will receive a call to ensure they're aware of their isolation requirements, but AHS will no longer have the capacity to do full case investigations for those non-high-risk cases."
She says the province is still working on a system for school reporting that reflects the current situation, with details still to come.