With all in-school learning cancelled province-wide for the foreseeable future, School District No. 74 is working to ensure that students and families have the supports they need until classes can resume, although when that will be, and what it will look like, is very much up in the air.
“All schools have sent learning materials home to each student,” says SD74 Board of Education co-chair Nancy Rempel. “Each family has been contacted by staff, and this is continuing, with teachers calling to see how they’re making out.”
She says that some students are working with their own computers at home, and others are working with paper packages that have been sent home to them.
“Some kids are really excited with online learning, doing totally different types of learning. Some are struggling, but for the most part kids are taking it pretty well. They’re missing their friends, but many are enjoying time home with their parents.
“I’m hearing positive stuff from around the district. There are some difficulties in some families, but for the most part I’m hearing positives.”
She urges any families that are having difficulties to contact their school.
“There’s lots of help. Teachers and support are readily available, and just a phone call away. If you’re in doubt, call.”
The district had implemented a universal food program for all students for the 2019-2020 school year, providing free, nutritious lunches for every student, every day. Rempel says that families were asked if the current situation was causing food supply hardships, with kids home all the time.
“Those that said yes are being supported, but each community is different. Some are having food dropped off at students’ houses, others have it available for pick-up at a central location.”
Schools in communities that need it are also providing childcare for the children of tier 1 essential workers, such as doctors, nurses, and first responders. “It gives the district a warm feeling to be able to support these service workers who are working for all of us,” says Rempel. “It’s not huge numbers [of students], but they’re going to the schools, where they’re in a childcare setting, They’re not going to class as such.”
Graduation ceremonies and events have been put on hold throughout the province, and Rempel says that the board has not yet heard anything about what Grad 2020 might look like in the district.
“We haven’t really talked about this yet, as it’s all pretty fresh from when [school closures] first came out. We know that grad students have a lot of uncertainties, and we’ll probably discuss it at the next board meeting.” She adds that as far as she knows, scholarship and bursary opportunities are still available as usual for qualifying students.
Asked about when reopening might happen, Rempel says that hasn’t been discussed as a board.
“We’re waiting to see what the Provincial Health Officer tells us. Currently we have no plans for reopening. We’ll keep on as is until we hear differently.”
In the meantime, she says that many students seem to be enjoying some good family time.
“It’s a good fresh set of family values. Everybody is holding a pretty positive attitude, and we’re happy to be able to support students.”
She adds that while they don’t always want to be directing kids to go on computers, there are a lot of resources available online. “And in Clinton [where Rempel lives], the community is really rallying around, trying to offer kids as much as they can.
“Clinton Communities in Bloom is going to be doing a sunflower growing contest as part of science. Students will learn to grow sunflowers and have fun doing it, and it will give them something to do.”
Rempel notes that the district is doing the best it can to try to offer some stability to students and their families, and keep some sort of education going, while acknowledging that we will never go back to normal. However, she adds that parents aren’t expected to be teachers.
“We’re all there to support the children, so if you can support them that’s great. If you’re having difficulties, call your child’s teacher or principal.”