What was to have been a first day back in the classroom for students on March 30 after a two-week spring break was anything but normal with only teachers and school administrators gathering, at a safe distance, for two hours in the afternoon to continue planning on how to instruct students using various online or other methods.
Whether by email, phone or using group-friendly online interactive programs, teachers are preparing to make contact with students, parents and guardians said Janet Meyer, the acting superintendent for School District 82.
“Your child’s teacher in the next week and a half will be learning and preparing for the most engaging opportunities they can provide during this time,” she said, affirming that contact will have been made before Easter.
Spring break aside, education minister Rob Fleming on March 17, following the guidance of the provincial health officer, closed all schools indefinitely as part of the effort to contain or prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Meyer has assured parents, guardians and students that the district is adhering to four principles of ensuring a healthy and safe environment for students, families and employees, providing services needed to support the children of essential workers, supporting vulnerable students who may need special assistance and providing for a resumption of teaching in some fashion.
In a March 26 video, Meyer asked for “time and patience” as the district, its officials, teachers and employees work through what is a rapidly evolving situation in determining what teaching methods will work best.
She noted the district won’t be taking a one size fits all framework and will acknowledge the individuality and uniqueness of the individual schools and communities within the district’s boundaries.
Meyer repeated a quote from provincial finance minister Carole James that what lies ahead is a “marathon, not a sprint.”
And she also reassured this year’s crops of Grade 12 student that they will reach graduation status.
“Any Grade 12 student who is on track for graduation prior to in-class instruction being suspended and assuming they have completed their numeracy assessment Will graduate as planned in June 2020,” said Meyer.
Grade 12 students who are on track for graduation but who haven’t completed their numeracy assessment will have the opportunity to do so, she added.
All other students will received a letter grade or indication of performance leading to the next grade level, Meyer continued.
Aside from outlining efforts by teachers and administrators to establish teaching methods, Meyer also noted the work of the district’s other employees.
She particularly referred to the district’s custodial corps who spent the spring break deep-cleaning each school.
But while that has been done, Meyer said there should be no attempt by parents, guardians or students to return to their schools to pick up personal or other belongings so as not to interfere in the work going on to establish distance learning.
“I’m respectfully requesting if it is not an urgent life-threatening extremely disruptive matter relating to your family you do not request access to the school,” she said.
Meyer further assured school district employees whose work would not otherwise have been interrupted save for the pandemic response will receive pay and benefits as normal for March and April. After that, the province will reassess compensation issues.
While teachers and school administrators were in schools for two hours March 30, student support and First Nations workers were at home awaiting instructions. That was the same for clerical and IT employees.
With schools being closed to the public and to students, breakfast and school lunch programs have also been suspended.
“District staff is working on a plan to provide some form of these programs to continue,” added Meyer in cautioning that how that will take place isn’t yet known.