‘Not an appropriate way to be’: School districts scramble to respond to ‘schools like no other’

More than 200 teachers and support staff from across Canada are now receiving letters from the province’s education minister, telling them that the new curriculum has created “significant challenges” for them.

“We’ve received the latest version of the curriculum from the Ministry of Education today and we are deeply concerned about the way the content is presented, and we believe that the material is not appropriate for schools like no previous version of this curriculum has ever been,” Education Minister Liz Sandals told reporters at a press conference Wednesday.

Sandals also said the changes are not an appropriate response to “the challenges faced by school districts.”

But the education ministry’s response is the first time that the provincial government has provided a formal notice to teachers and school administrators, and comes after teachers and their unions expressed their concerns earlier this month.

Teachers have been organizing protests in recent months in support of their demands, and a number of provincial and federal governments have stepped in to offer support and help.

“It’s been quite a challenge and I think we’ve been a little bit lucky in that we have been able to get our message out there,” Sandals said.

“I think what the government has done is have some very good-quality resources in place and we’re hoping to see that continue.”

The federal government’s response to teachers’ demands for an end to the mandatory curriculum for all schools in Alberta was largely welcomed by teachers, who say the curriculum is hurting schools.

“They’re really trying to use a bully pulpit,” said teacher Janice Hovland, who represents students in the Edmonton Public School District.

“This is really an issue of teaching, and if the curriculum isn’t aligned with what teachers want, we will see a lot of disruption in our schools.”

She added that the ministry has offered some guidance, but that she still doesn’t know how many teachers will be affected by the changes.

“As a union, we have a lot more support from teachers in terms of what we need to do, and what we can do to help them,” Hovlands said.

Sandales acknowledged the challenges teachers and the school boards have faced over the last several years in responding to the new school curriculum.

“Our schools are not the same schools we used to be,” Sandales said.

She also acknowledged the work that teachers have done to prepare for the changes and said she wants to hear from all of them.