By Justin Seward
Prairie Rose School Division gave an update on March 18 as to how home-based learning packages will be rolled out for students as classes were suspended indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic on March 15.
“Our staff is diligently working,” said Roger Clarke, PRSD’s superintendent.
“One of the things that we’ve been really stressing, and we’ve been meeting almost daily with our principals via technology, (is)our schools have been instructed to start to prepare, and how we can meet the best needs of our students.”
Clarke says that preparation could come through various different means including physical packages, technology, using some of the resources the school district has and assigning a chrome book to a family that might not have a computer.
“One of the main means would be through phone calling home (and)contacting the home and saying ‘How are you, we’re going to be there for you. We’ve got you for this,’” said Clarke.
“But also what’s your level of connect ability and what kind of computer system do you have at home and that’s important to us. The more we can deliver in that way, the faster we can communicate back and forth, the faster we can get materials to kids. And kids can start working and learning through video and various different ways. Maybe even one-on-one with our teachers through email or videos that teachers can take of their own teaching and put them online so kids can watch them teach as if they were in the classroom.”
Clarke realizes nothing will replace a high quality teacher that works with a group of kids everyday.
“We know it’s not going to be a perfect scenario but it’s something that we’re going to be working towards to provide that support,” he said.
He addressed the question, if a student is in the situation where they have Wi-Fi and don’t have access to a chrome book , don’t have books that are needed and no technology at home, what would the peers do.
“We’re going to push stuff out,” said Clarke.
“We know that families, parents and kids were returning to school today even (and) getting their personal belongings. But I want to be cautious of the fact that we want to have our materials out in the hands of kids. We want our library books out there, we want our technology out there. It doesn’t do any good sitting in our schools for next while indefinitely.”
Buses will be utilized to drop packages off at the doorsteps for students.
“We’re going to set up a system where our buses will travel once a week and take those packages and drop them right on their doorstep,” said Clarke.
Clarke says PRSD is fully prepared to work with cultures that do not have technology and deliver those students paper copy packages via transportation.
As for staff, if you have students in Grade 6 and under, they can work from home.
“We all know the stresses for day care right now,” explained Clarke.
“We all know the stresses for who is going to take care of my little ones when they’re home. Our staff has the same issue. We didn’t want to task the system and we also wanted to make sure their children were cared for.”
Clarke cautions if staff are home, there is still the expectation they are still able to connect and do the job.
Staff with compromised immune systems will be worked with as well.
Parent- teacher interviews will be conducted over the phone .
“All parents should be expected to be communicated with,” he said.
Discussions are ongoing between Alberta Education and the K-to-12 school divisions for the provisions that will be made for those Grade 12 students that are about to graduate.
Clarke anticipates if this whole year is cancelled then graduation could be planned for the fall.
More information will come for finals marks and what they’re based on.
PATs (Provincial Achievement Tests) were immediately cancelled for Grades’ 6 and 9 students.
In Education Minister Adriana LaGrange’s update on March 20, she announced diploma exams have been cancelled.
Some of the schools were charging fees for different curriculum items as well.
“From a fees perspective, by all means, if we have fees, just be a little patient,” he said.
“We don’t know how long this is going to last. If we’re out a month and we’re back in again and we have to start up some programs that require fees and you might have already paid some fees . I need parents to know if you paid fees-for-service that you’re not going to be getting, those fees will be returned back to you.”
PRSD will also be posting on their website about school family liaison workers and how you can contact them.
Clarke ensured people would not be laid off.