By Justin Seward
The Alberta government came out with more COVID-19 restrictions restrictions on Nov. 24 and the education sector has been impacted.
Alberta students in Grades 7-12 moved back to at-home learning on Nov. 30 and will go until Jan. 8-except the winter break- and will return to the classroom on Jan. 11.
Diploma exams will be optional for the rest of school year and alteratively students and families can choose to write an exam or be exempt for the January, April, June and August 2021 exams.
Kindergarten to Grade 6 will remain in classes until the winter break-generally around Dec. 18- and then will do online learning from Jan. 4-8, before returning to classed on Jan. 11.
Exemption is available for students with disabilities or in outreach programs, learn more at K-12 learning during COVID-19.
“We were anticipating some impacts on schools,” said Roger Clarke, Prairie Rose School Division supertintendent.
“When we heard the announcement was coming, we could see the numbers building in Alberta radically over the previous week. The pressure is rising across the country and certainly the pressure is rising in Alberta to do something more. We weren’t certain as to what that would look like. Would that be all students and what time would that be. Would that be before Christmas or after Christmas?”
Clarke says he feels most people have been listening to this whole notion of a circuit breaker
“As we heard, many Alberta doctors requested of our government to have a circuit breaker time frame in a sense where people can be at home and that we can stop the spread of COVID-19 a bit, and bring the numbers down to a more manageable number in our Health Services,” said Clarke.
Clarke also heard during the announcement the rational that there has been very little COVID spread and quick, good resiliency with students in Kindergarten to Grade 6.
“The science of that seems to indicate that there’s no reason at this point in time for K-to- 6 not to be in face-to-face instruction,” said Clarke.
“The actual cases- the close contacts and actual cases of COVID- are rising in junior high and are higher yet again in high school. We haven’t experienced much of that in Prairie Rose, but from a provincial perspective, that’s the basis that we understand this decision was made upon.”
Clarke wants to remind students that the at-home learning will not look like it did in the spring lockdown.
“It’s going to be quite different then what happened in the spring,” he said.
“In the spring, COVID was new for everyone- we weren’t sure how long this was going to last. To be very honest, the requirements were too low, with respect to the expectation of student learning at home. So the number of hours that were expected for students to put into a high school course was too low for us to be able to complete all the course content. Now, those numbers when you look at the Scenario 3 portion of the re-entry document-the numbers for example for a five-credit high school course is six hours per week of expected work by a student. Six hours a week is very close to what they would get in school at face to face.”
PRSD’s junior high and senior high school kids will be taught their core courses directly through online means, he added.
Students have been issued chromebooks.
“They’re going be able to have regular classroom instruction going in their homes-connecting via Google Meet and their work will be posted via Google Classrooms,” said Clarke.
“The teacher can give them an assignment and the student can complete the assignment, the student can put back into Google Classroom and the teacher can assess it. There’s no reason why progress can’t continue as per normal for junior and senior high courses.”
The students’ homes who do not support technology will have the pencil and paper option available to them.
The vast majority of courses can still occur, he added.
PRSD’s focus for high school students are those courses that are going to lead into graduation and for the junior highs it will be about the four areas of Math, Science and Social Studies as well as Wellness and Health.
“The rigor that we expect in the courses this time around is much higher,” he said.
“The expectations of our students to be in a sense thinking about this as if you were in class. Get up, get ready for school and be prepared for your class when your class starts.”
Clarke said, “If you don’t do your assignments and don’t do your work, you may not pass your course.”
The Kindergarten to Grade 6 students will have to focus on literacy and numeracy at home for the week prior to Jan. 11.
Alberta Teachers Association president Jason Schilling commented on the announcement.
“We only know that schools are going to be safe as our communities,” he said.
“We’re hoping that the measures that were taken yesterday will help in reducing community spread across the province because we know community spread in our towns and cities, that’ll be reflected in the school. When COVID comes into a school, it has a lot of impact on students, teachers, their families.