School District 54’s teachers and staffers were hard at work last week reconnecting with parents, guardians and students through the internet and other means.
Although schools are considered open and are staffed, there is no instruction following a province-wide directive last month to suspend in-person classes because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
School district superintendent Mike McDiarmid, himself in self-isolation after returning from foreign travel, said the district was actually ahead of the majority of districts across the province because it had a different spring break schedule.
“Some teachers are more confident than others and all are learning,” he added of various online programs being used to connect with students. “There are a lot of different programs in use.”
A prime program is Zoom, allowing teachers to connect to students in a group format.
While teachers are connecting with students, McDiarmid noted that the involvement of families is key.
“It’s going to be a home-schooling situation in partnerships with families,” he said.
“What’s happening is a home-schooling situation, in partnerships with families,” he said.
The foundation for connecting with families and students began with an on-line survey to determine what kind of devices families have at home and what kind of access to the internet a family has.
Yet the district has also been working diligently on connecting with families who don’t have devices.
“We’ve been working on lending equipment to families,” McDiarmid said.
And in recognizing that models of instruction will evolve given specific circumstances, teachers are developing ways to have instruction material delivered to homes.
That kind of planning is underway at Walnut Park Elementary, for instance, where principal Nicole Davey said learning materials could very well be included with food packages which are replacing the school’s breakfast and lunch programs.
And at Silverthorne Elementary in Houston, principal Julie Krall said the school has been lending out devices to families.
“We’re very, very engaged. Our teachers have been stepping up to fill in any gaps,” she said.
McDiarmid also repeated assurances that Grade 12 students who were on track to graduate prior to the suspension of in-person instruction will do so.
“We’re following the direction from the ministry of education on that,” he said.
But it is far too early and there are too many unknowns yet to indicate what kind of graduation acknowledgement activities might be planned, McDiarmid added.
Schools continue to work on procedures whereby students can arrange to pick up personal belongings.
“But that can only be done by respecting social distancing, perhaps with parents in small groups,” McDiarmid said.