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An empty teacher's desk is seen at the front of a empty classroom at McGee Secondary school in Vancouver on September 5, 2014.

Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press

The Kenney government has turned down a request from the Alberta Teachers’ Association to delay the start of the school year until after Sept. 7, Labour Day.

The association, which has 46,000 members across the province, has said teachers, principals and other staff need more time to prepare for students due to COVID-19.

The government has said students are to return to class as early as Sept. 1.

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Education Minister Adriana LaGrange says the government will leave it up to individual school boards to decide on when classes should resume.

LaGrange says after reviewing all the planned re-entry dates for schools across the province, there is time to allow teachers to prepare for re-entry before their students arrive.

She says these plans and timelines were created by school boards who are following the expert medical advice of Alberta’s chief medical officer of health.

“These partners remain confident, as do I, that the school re-entry plan already provides local school authorities with the autonomy and flexibility to ensure local needs are met and to prepare schools for a safe re-entry,” LaGrange said Friday in a release.

“I would like to reinforce that I continue to support school boards using this flexibility to adjust their plans if necessary in the coming days as they make preparations for a safe return to school.”

Association president Jason Schilling said teachers want to ensure that school is a safe place for themselves and the students they care for.

He said time is rapidly running out to see this happen.

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“The Minister in her statement today reiterated that school boards have the freedom to manage restart as they see fit,” he said in a release.

“Clearly, parents and members of the public who have concerns about schooling during the pandemic will now need to hold their elected school board trustees accountable for the consequences.”

The association has said there needs to be increased physical distancing through reduced class sizes, funding for better protective equipment and better plans for screening and testing students and staff for COVID-19.

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