NOTE: This blog post was originally posted August 11, 2021. It has been updated to reflect the current COVID situation as of September 24, 2021.

I’m hearing over and over on the doorsteps people are rightly worried about COVID transmissions in schools.

They’re worried about teachers, and their kids and grandkids – especially those under 12 who currently are unable to receive COVID vaccinations. As a parent of four children (three under age 12), I share these concerns.

The just and compassionate thing for us to do as a society is to protect those who can’t be vaccinated. Kids sacrificed birthday parties, extracurricular activities, and visits with grandparents to keep vulnerable adults safe last year. We do not know the long-term disability impacts of contracting COVID as a child. It could be nothing, or it could be debilitating. These unvaccinated children have 60, 70, 80, or more years ahead of them. It’s time to take the long-term view. Now it’s our turn to return the favour.

I fully support mandatory masking in schools, and I am 100% supportive of COVID vaccinations and hope that every single eligible Albertan gets their shot.

Last month, I ran a quick survey through my social media channels. 321 people responded. While not a representative sample of Edmontonians, the results do show a high level of support for:

  • masking in classrooms
  • mobile vaccination clinics in schools
  • contact tracing, and 
  • advocacy for ventilation upgrades.

About half of respondents felt a classroom size of 15-20 students would be safer for both staff and students.

In the midst of the fourth wave of COVID in our province we all need to do our part to bring down those numbers. This means retaining basic public health measures as called for by the Alberta College of Family Physicians, the Canadian Pediatric Society, and others. It means getting on board with a coalition of leaders requesting direct federal funding to school boards to support districts in:

  • HEPA filtration in K-6 classrooms 
  • KN95 masks for elementary schools
  • Air quality monitoring in every classroom

We must continue to lobby the provincial government to maintain “test, trace, isolate” requirements for as long as necessary (not just until an arbitrary deadline).

Last March, I spearheaded a letter-writing campaign to our provincial government. The ask was to “stay ahead of the wave.” It was a push to not rush easing of restrictions at that time. In just three days, more than 500 people submitted letters to our provincial government. The Province did back down from in-person dining indoors. Did our modest campaign help? I believe it did and was worth the effort.

Here’s how you can help:

  1. Ask all trustee candidates their stance on COVID in schools. Help get those elected who will continue to advocate for COVID safety in schools. Join my campaign here.
  2. Write to the Province. You may copy, paste and edit this sample letter.
  3. Write to the Federal Government. You may copy, paste and edit this sample letter.
  4. Reach out to the non-profit, business, medical and community partners in your life. Ask what they can do to help reduce community spread in their spheres of influence. Thank them if they’ve been a COVID safety hero.

The current Edmonton Public School Board Trustees have been excellent advocates for COVID safety in our schools throughout this pandemic. They stepped up to the challenge again with the Back to School Plan. I encourage all parents to make time to thoroughly read this document.

Similar to Alberta Health Services (AHS) and the City of Edmonton, who are requiring employees to be vaccinated, I would also be supportive of mandatory vaccinations for EPSB staff, contractors, and volunteers who are in the schools working with students. Of course, a mechanism would need to be put in place for those requiring an exemption for a valid medical reason.

My campaign focuses on “Education Grounded in Community.” It’s also about collaboration. We can do this together. We can make the school year safer. It takes a village to raise a child. Right now, it’s time for our village in Alberta and in Canada to step forward.  In fact, over the past decade I’ve seen the incredible power of regular neighbours to make the “impossible,” possible. My sincere gratitude to those who have been loud on this front for months. Your tireless leadership is deeply appreciated.

Should I be given the privilege to serve as your next Ward F Edmonton Public School Board Trustee, I will continue to advocate for COVID safety in our classrooms. I’m happy to take your feedback and will look into the issues you raise.