Physical distancing requirement in classrooms removed ahead of back-to-school

Pictured is a classroom in Henry Wise Wood High School that could accommodate a cohort of up to 38 students on Friday, August 28, 2020.

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health has signed a public health order removing a physical distancing requirement for students, staff members and visitors in classrooms ahead of the province’s return to school this week.

“An operator of a school does not need to ensure that students, staff members and visitors are able to maintain a minimum of two metres distance from every other person when student, staff or students are seated at a desk or table,”

the order states

.

That provision applies “within a classroom or place where the instruction, course or program of study is taking place.”

Desks, tables and chairs should still be arranged in a manner to prevent students who are seated from facing each other. Classrooms should also allow for “the greatest possible distance” between seated students and staff.

The order, signed by Dr. Deena Hinshaw on Saturday, is effective throughout the province as of this week. In-person classes are set to resume on Tuesday.

“I’m stunned by this reversal of physical distancing in classrooms,” Alberta Teachers’ Association president Jason Schilling said on Twitter.

“This goes against everything we’ve been told for months.”

Hinshaw said she’s heard criticism about the province’s transparency surrounding the order.

“This timing was not to hide information from Albertans but to ensure school authorities knew about the order before it came into effect,” she stated on Twitter.

“I understand the concerns, especially as we move forward quickly to ensure accurate information for Albertans. Effective immediately, my goal will be to post new orders Monday through Thursday and I will share when they have been posted via social media. My team and I continue to work closely with school authorities to provide accurate information and evidence to support the back to school experience for children, parents, teachers and administrators.”

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