Posted on Sep 3, 2020


CALGARY - Albertans who live with their grandchildren or have a critical role in their care are at increased risk from COVID-19 as Premier Jason Kenney refuses to reduce school class sizes during a deadly pandemic.

“Public health officials have been telling seniors to stay away from their grandchildren or other school-age relatives,” said NDP Leader Rachel Notley. “But for many families across Alberta, this simply isn’t possible and Jason Kenney’s failure to make schools safe is putting them at risk.”

“I was very disturbed to hear Premier Kenney dismiss concerns about outbreaks in Alberta schools,” said Sarah Hoffman, NDP Official Opposition Critic for Education. “School outbreaks present a serious threat to the health and safety of multi-generational families who cannot isolate students from their grandparents.

Public health officials have warned Alberta seniors to isolate from their grandchildren or other school-age relatives as students head back to school. But that’s impossible for Kuldeep Saini, who lives in the same house as his grandchildren Tanisha and Shivamdeep, who are going into Grade 7 and Grade 4 next Tuesday.

“Three generations of our family live in the same house. This is very common in our neighbourhood. I see my grandchildren every day.” said Saini, 79, speaking through a translator.. “I am very worried that they will be exposed to COVID-19 at school and bring it home. If the government had done something to reduce class sizes, the risk would be smaller. It makes me angry to hear the Premier say that outbreaks are inevitable.”

Rakesh Kumar Gupta doesn’t live with his grandchildren, Anisha and Ayush, but he picks them up each day after school and takes care of them until their parents come home from work.

“Both of their parents work full-time, and one of them would have to leave their job for me to isolate from them,” said Gupta, 66, also speaking through a translator. “These are very difficult times for everyone, and grandparents often take care of the children for working parents. If Anisha or Ayush gets sick, then I’m going to get sick too.”

The NDP Official Opposition has presented the government with a detailed plan for re-opening, Safe Schools, Successful Students. The plan contains 15 recommendations to protect students, families, staff and communities. The first recommendation is to cap class sizes at 15 so that two-metre physical distancing can be maintained.

“Jason Kenney didn’t even try to reduce class sizes so that students can spread out and stay safe,” Hoffman said. “I’m appalled that the premier is so flippant about the danger he is exposing these Alberta families to.”