ontario news watch

Alberta adds $45 million for young students set back by COVID-19 disruptions

EDMONTON — The Alberta government is providing up to $45 million to help young students whose learning may have been set back by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The money will be available for the upcoming fall school year for up to 50,000 students in Grades 1 to 3.

The program is aimed specifically at students falling behind in literacy and numeracy and is based on studies that suggest such setbacks need to be addressed as early as possible.

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange says school boards can use the money as they see fit — whether it is for additional teachers or teacher aides, or for one-on-one or group instruction.

The province estimates that 15 per cent of students in the early grades will need extra literacy and numeracy support due to learning disruptions related to COVID.

That is double the usual number of students who need such help in any given year.

Officials said the program would run for about four months.

“School authorities will assess the students come fall, and when they have the numbers they will apply to my department and we will roll the money out,” LaGrange told reporters Friday.

“It will certainly be up to the school authorities to determine how they’re going to spend those dollars (and) how they’re going to roll out those programs.”

For the last 15 months, students in all grades have alternated between online and in-class learning as Alberta grappled with three waves of surging COVID-19 cases.

Opposition NDP education critic Sarah Hoffman said the money is “too little, too late” from a government that laid off school support staff at the start of the pandemic, failed to deliver consistent support since, and is not funding for enrolment growth.

“This yo-yo between in-person and online learning that has left kids to go through a lot of chaos over the last 15 months — everyone being sent home at least three times — has absolutely hurt learning,” said Hoffman.

“Staff, teachers (and) parents have done an amazing job in supporting children during this difficult time, but (Premier) Jason Kenney has not.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 28, 2021.

The Canadian Press