A health order signed over the weekend by Alberta's chief medical officer of health has lifted a mandate requiring physical distancing in the classroom when students return to school.
The order, endorsed by Dr. Deena Hinshaw, states that "an operator of a school does not need to ensure that students, staff members and visitors are able to maintain a minimum of two metres distance from every other person when student, staff or students are seated at a desk or table."
The decision applies to classrooms and other instructional settings where seats are arranged to prevent students from facing one another.
Prior to the introduction of the order, concerns had been raised over the ability of schools to maintain two metres of distance between students.
The majority of students in Alberta are slated to return to school this week either in-person through online learning hubs.
In an eight-part post to Twitter Monday morning, Hinshaw claimed the timing of the order's release was not underhanded and school boards were notified ahead of time.
I’ve heard criticism that Order 33-2020 was issued over the weekend. This timing was not to hide information from Albertans but to ensure school authorities knew about the order before it came into effect today (August 31). (1/8) https://t.co/ZZG0Kwkdx2
Hinshaw adds that masks will remain mandatory for students, staff and teachers in shared areas, including hallways and buses, where appropriate distancing cannot be maintained.
Jason Schilling, president of the Alberta Teachers' Association, took to social media Sunday night to slam the move that he says contradicts what the province has been saying for months.
I’m stunned by this reversal of physical distancing in classrooms by @CMOH_Alberta . The Strategic Advisory Council, which provides advice to CMOH still suggests 2m., so what gives? This goes against everything we’ve been told for months. https://t.co/MwTAFB4FB9— jason schilling (@schill_dawg) August 31, 2020
The province has mandated mask use for students in Grade 4 or higher in areas where physical distancing cannot be observed but some school boards have expanded their use to all students including those in kindergarten.
With files from CTV's Virginia Wright