Two dozen Alberta medical professionals, scientists, union members, and university professors wrote a two-page petition requesting that Ottawa bypass the provincial government and directly fund provincial classrooms to protect them from COVID-19 transmission.
However, the urgent appeal made directly to the prime minister by Albertans concerned about their children’s return to school next month does not appear to have resulted in any significant change.
The letter requests $65 million to install HEPA filtration units in all elementary classrooms and $9.6 million to give KN95-type masks to pupils in kindergarten through sixth grade. Another $6 million is being sought to outfit all classrooms with CO2 sensors.
According to the authors, the Alberta government failed to pass on federal funds that would have made classrooms safer during the pandemic. That, according to a provincial official, is a bogus assertion.
“Every dollar of funding received through the Safe Return to Class Fund was immediately allocated to school authorities once it was received from the federal government,” education press secretary Nicole Sparrow wrote, noting that the federal government transferred $262 million to Alberta through the program.
She stated that an “extra guidance document” is being developed and will be available in mid-August to facilitate the September return to school. The federal government’s statement did not explicitly address the desire to bypass Kenney’s administration and finance school boards directly.
“Provinces and territories had the flexibility to spend funding according to their priorities,” commented Jean-Sebastien Comeau, a spokeswoman for the federal government.
He stated that Ottawa would continue to collaborate with provincial and territorial governments, as well as Indigenous partners, “to assist Canadians in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.”