By Letter to the Editor on September 16, 2020.
The Alberta government is to be faulted for creating the wimpy term “near normal” to describe this September’s return to school. “Normal” describes the way things were. Why would anyone want to go to school in “near normal” conditions when COVID-19 threatens the lives of students, teachers, staff and, by extension, everyone in the province? We are living in extremely abnormal times that deserve much more than “near normal” conditions.
How can we measure the results of a program that strives to provide “near normal” conditions? We need a program that has measurable results. Only after a safe and effective vaccine has been developed and administered can schools return to “near normal.” What we need now are conditions that keep everyone safe.
Use of weasel words in the Alberta government’s K to 12 re-entry paper demonstrates a clear lack of leadership.
“Schools must consider the following health measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.” The word “consider” allows for schools to ignore best health practices and do what they want.
“Exceptions will be made for students and staff who are unable to wear a mask due to medical or other needs.” The reason for not wearing a mask in a school is irrelevant. What matters is that anyone not wearing a mask for any reason has the capacity to infect others.
“Practise physical distancing when possible.” This statement legitimizes the crowding of students in school because of the restrictions of facilities. In other words the overcrowding of students can be overlooked if the school’s physical space won’t allow for distancing. If the space is too small, find more space. Lease ATCO trailers for the parking lot; use community space; rent commercial buildings. There is no excuse for not providing space for two-metre physical distancing.
Rather than saying it wants to create “near normal” conditions, the province should adopt a clear, direct and appropriate slogan similar to the one used by the Canadian railway industry. This industry’s safety program is called “Operation Lifesaver,” and its mission statement is “We want to save lives.”
By excusing overcrowding because of limited space, and by excusing the non-wearing of masks by some people for personal reasons, the government is inviting the spread of COVID-19. We need the government to show real leadership by creating an effective plan that will save lives.