ATA President Jason Shilling Speaks on Alberta School Re-entry Plan

ATA President, Jason Schilling Speaks on Alberta School Re-entry Plan

Rosanne Fortier
News Correspondent

Jason Schilling is the President and official spokesperson for Alberta Teachers Association (ATA)

ATA’s membership is not part of Alberta Union of Public Employees (AUPE). ATA helps teachers on the labour front. “The association has three functions; a professional function, a regulatory function, and a union function. The union function of the association would be one that would negotiate contracts for teachers. This is done at a central level, at a provincial ATA, and at a local level. We have a trio tier bargaining process. Our mandate and job is to help teachers when things go wrong at the schools.”

Schilling started off by saying teachers were not planning to go on strike.

Schilling then went on to express what ATA thinks of Alberta School Re-entry plan.  “ATA thinks that teachers are looking forward to getting back into their classrooms with their students. But they want it to be safe and it needs to be safe for teachers, other school staff in the building, students, and ultimately for their families when they go home after their day because ultimately we want to make sure that the community is safe.”

“Then the fact that physical distancing is not mandatory in classrooms is a huge issue for a lot of teachers because we hear from Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Hinshaw and other medical officers that physical distancing is important and if a class should be cohered with a class that might not have physical distancing measures met is problematic for teachers as they are wondering how that will work when we have areas in this province that has major class size issues. We want to know how we are supposed to maintain physical distancing in that case. Also, this goes back to the safety factor when the students can’t be kept two meters apart.”

Schilling went on to say class sizes has been an issue for the ATA for many, many years and governments have failed to act on making class size a priority and reducing class sizes. “So, ATA keeps working with the government to get class sizes down to more manageable levels. The COVID-19 pandemic sort of heightened that crisis and what we seen in our schools in terms of class sizes.

“As far as wearing masks goes it is evolving in terms of science and how people see the value in it, I like to err on the side of caution if the student or teacher wants to wear a mask, it is better to be safe. But we need to hear from Dr. Hinshaw if it should be mandatory or not,” Schilling said.