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Classes move to online learning

Alberta Education has released online learning guidelines, following the March 15 closure of schools across the province.

While individual school districts are still grappling with the transition, the provincial education authority published a newsletter March 20 outlining how teacher-directed learning will continue for students in kindergarten to Grade 12.

“Everyone has come together to chart a path forward as part of our COVID-19 response – teachers, support staff, superintendents, administrators, elected trustees, parents, education associations, the provincial government and many others,” Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said in a statement. “It is important that Albertans know we are all working towards the same goal – to provide the best possible learning situation for our students during this very challenging and unprecedented time.”

Under the guidelines, school districts will offer at-home learning through a combination of online resources, course packages and telephone check-ins. According to a statement from the Calgary Catholic School District (CCSD), Google Classroom is the recommended online learning management software for students in kindergarten to Grade 6, while Brightspace is the suggested resource for the remaining grades.

“We recognize that not all of our students have access to technology and our teachers will work with these individual students and families through other methods,” the statement read. “CCSD is committed to supporting our students during this challenging time.”

Catholic schools in Airdrie, including St. Martin de Porres High School, Our Lady Queen of Peace School, Good Shepherd School and St. Veronica School, operate under CCSD’s jurisdiction.

“We are grateful to our staff, students and families for working together as we engage on this new learning journey together,” CCSD’s statement read. “In the meantime, we are thinking about and praying for each and every child and family in our community.”

Workloads and subject focuses will differ depending on grade level, according to Alberta Education. For students in kindergarten to Grade 3, learning will focus on literacy and numeracy, and teachers will assign students an average of five hours of work per week.

Language and mathematics will also be prioritized for students in grades 4 to 6, with opportunities to include science and social studies outcomes within their assigned tasks. Again, an average of five hours of work will be assigned to each student per week.

Junior high students will focus their learning on a broader range of core subjects, according to Alberta Education, including mathematics principles, literacy, science and social studies. These students will be expected to complete an average of 10 hours of work per week.

For high-school students, education content will focus on the core courses required for graduation, including language, social studies, mathematics and the three core sciences – biology, chemistry and physics. Content from other courses will be taught when possible, and students will be assigned an average of three hours of work per course, per week.

Every student, regardless of grade level, will still receive final grades and a report card.

“Teachers will be responsible for assessing a student’s progress and assigning a final grade,” Alberta Education stated. “School authorities have committed to ensuring parents are consulted and kept informed of how assessment will be determined in this unique circumstance. All students who were on track to progress to the next grade will [do so].”

Provincial achievements tests and diploma exams are cancelled, and high-school seniors on track to receive 100 or more credits by this spring will still be eligible to graduate. Additionally, Alberta Education said, “principals have the ability to award up to 15 credits to students whose program has been negatively impacted by class cancellations.”

Jason Schilling, president of the Alberta Teachers' Association, said the transition to online-learning will be an adjustment for teachers, students and parents. 

"When I talk to my colleagues right now, one of the things they miss most is just their students, and having kids in their classroom," he said. "They became teachers for that very reason – to work in classrooms with students. I know they’re missing them, and I know some students are missing school as well.

"There are all sorts of changes that have been happening that have caught teachers, like most people, by surprise. We’re trying to adjust to the new normal of what we have right now. Teachers are looking at ways to adjust their teaching practices to make sure they can reach students who are now working in a different environment they would normally be in, which is a classroom.”

Rocky View Schools, the public school division for Airdrie, was unable to comment before deadline, stating it was in the process of transitioning schools to the new guidelines.

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Scott Strasser, AirdrieToday.com
Follow me on Twitter @scottstrasser19