That’s where School District 57 is as it deals with yesterday’s provincial decision to suspend classroom teaching indefinitely. And for those who might think students and teachers are getting an extra long summer break, think again.
Education Minister Rob Fleming directed school districts and teachers to prepare a “continuity of learning” for when spring break would normally end at the end of March. The ministry will work with districts to determine how to provide ongoing education services.
So what does that mean? That’s part of the uncharted territory School District 57 finds itself in says Superintendent Anita Richardson.
“I would like to send out thoughts to our community members who are directly impacted by COVID-19,” Richardson said. “We are in unprecedented times and it is clear that now is time for us to pull together and to put our community’s health and well-being at the forefront by stopping the spread of the virus.”
School District 57 is currently on spring break so the order means students will not be returning to the classroom on March 30 as originally scheduled. Teachers, however, will be required to return to work.
“Currently our senior staff is working to develop timelines and priorities for what continued learning will look like during this suspension of in-class instruction,” she said. “Once school staffs return from spring break, they will begin to plan and implement a variety of strategies to support student learning in alterative of ways.”
She stressed delivering education outside of the classroom is unprecedented in the province.
“Learning for students will continue,” she said. “It will look different.”
It will, in all likelihood involve, at least to some degree, online training and teaching. However, that could be a challenge for rural areas where internet access is not as robust as urban areas.
“We’re considering all of our schools and all of our community members in what our continuation of learning plan will look like,” Richardson said. “That’s something that we are currently working on … We will get information from staff who are in those sites to know what is best suited to their situation.”
Fleming has stated that every student will receive a final mark at the end of the school year and Richardson said the local district will deliver on that pledge. Every student who is on-track to move up a grade, will do so in the fall.
For Grade 10 and 11 students in the district, graduation assessments will be postponed. Fleming said every student eligible to graduate this year, will do so. Richardson said the district will be working with graduates on how to celebrate grad this year.
“We recognize that many families rely on our school system for a variety of supports,” she said. “We will continue to work on our plans to provide the plans that are required at these challenging times. At this time we have more unknowns than knowns. The landscape is changing rapidly and we will work to keep our community informed.”
Schools will be open after spring break, but students will not be attending.
One of the benefits of it being spring break is that schools would normally be cleaned at this time of year. Now they are getting a “deep clean,” said Richardson.
Fleming also wants districts to have plans in place to maintain some level of service for children of people who are performing essential services on the frontline to combat COVID-19. Richardson said the local district doesn’t yet who that will apply to.
Information can be found on the district website and they have developed a question and answer section. The district also has a separate email for parents and students to ask questions: firstname.lastname@example.org