Edmonton Public among the school divisions that will not pilot new curriculum this fall

Edmonton Public Schools is the latest Alberta school division to publicly state it will not pilot the draft kindergarten to Grade 6 curriculum during the 2021-22 school year.

Superintendent Darrel Robertson said the decision was based on "the continued impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic."

"Our Division is offering family choice for in-person and online learning in the first half of the 2021-22 school year," Robertson said in a written statement.

"To ensure continuity of learning as we look towards a potential return to in-person instruction for the second half of the year, we need to ensure the same curriculum is being used Division-wide for both our online and in-person students."

The news comes after Elk Island Public Schools (EIPS) confirmed to CTV News Edmonton it has also decided not to pilot the draft curriculum.

In an email, the division said it will instead review the curriculum with groups of teachers and provide feedback to the province.

The division declined an interview with CTV News. 

EIPS serves 43 schools in Sherwood Park, Strathcona County, Lamont County, Fort Saskatchewan and Vegreville.

TRUSTEES RECEIVE 'HIGH NUMBER' OF CONCERNS: PUBLIC BOARD CHAIR

While the superintendent of Edmonton Public Schools blamed the pandemic for the decision, the chair of the Edmonton Public School Board (EPSB) said trustees have also heard "a high number" of serious concerns about the draft documents.

"Everything from, 'This curriculum isn't age appropriate.' I've heard concerns around the content. In particular, the concern around not upholding the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission," said Trisha Estabrooks during a media availability Thursday afternoon.

Since it was released Monday, the draft curriculum has faced criticism from parents, teachers and Indigenous groups.

"It's a hot topic. It's spring break. People have time on their hands" said Estabrooks.

She added Edmonton Public Schools has a "dedicated team" of curriculum experts that will analyze the draft documents and offer feedback to the ministry.

The Edmonton Catholic school division also said Thursday it will not commit to piloting the new curriculum "at this time."

In an email, the superintendent said it will spend several weeks engaging with teachers, administration, Council of Elders, and other stakeholders to provide feedback to the province.

'PILOT IS VOLUNTARY': SCHOOL BOARDS ASSOCIATION

The president of the Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) confirmed Thursday afternoon participating in the curriculum pilot is voluntary and it respects individual boards' decisions on whether to do so.

"We look forward to further engagements between the ministry and education stakeholders as public consultations develop," said Lorrie Jess in a written statement. "Additionally, we would encourage all Albertans to have their voices heard by providing input into the draft curriculum survey."

The ASBA would not confirm to CTV News Edmonton whether any school divisions have committed to testing the draft curriculum.

Both the premier and the education minister have endorsed the curriculum but said changes can still be made.