'I was immediately saddened and surprised': Alberta mom voices concerns over return to online learning

Premier Jason Kenney announces Alberta is declaring a state of public health emergency and new restrictions amid the second-wave of COVID-19.

An Alberta mom is voicing her concerns following Tuesday’s announcement that some students will return to online learning beginning Nov. 30.

I was immediately saddened and surprised,” Laura Darichuk said.  “One reason my daughter wanted to go back to school is she found the level of instruction last year just lacking and her grades just plummeted.”

Darichuk has two daughters in high school who have taken different approaches to their studies due to the pandemic.

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Her daughter in Grade 11 started online learning at the beginning of the school year, while her other daughter has been attending in-person classes.

“The in-school learning fit for my younger daughter and the online/at home stuff has been perfect for my older daughter,” Darichuk explained.

On Tuesday, the government introduced several new restrictions including health measures for students across the province.

Starting Nov. 30, students in Grades 7 to 12 will begin online learning until Dec. 18.

Children from K to 12 will also attend online learning classes at the beginning of January, pushing back the start of in-person classes to January 11.

Darichuk said she received an email from the Rocky View Schools shortly after the announcement.

It outlines that students will receive weekly learning plans on Monday morning and tasks are expected to be completed by the following Monday.

Students in Grades 10 to 12 are expected to complete six hours of work per week for each of their courses.

“Rocky View Schools is currently reviewing our Scenario 3 Plan in light of the government’s announcement yesterday,” Tara de Weerd the Director of Communications with Rocky View Schools said. “Our focus remains on meeting the educational needs of all of our students and ensuring this transition to temporary at-home learning is as smooth as possible for our families.”

The district adds students and families will be contacted prior to Nov. 30, by the school and their teachers about how their learning will be supported.

Darichuk worries her younger daughter will fall behind if a schedule and structure aren’t provided.

“If they have to shut the schools down, shouldn’t they expect the level of instruction to remain high? Shouldn’t we be giving our kids the level of education they deserve?”

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Meanwhile, the Calgary Catholic School District (CCSD) is doing some fine-tuning as many of its students prepare to pivot once again.

Chief superintendent and CEO of the CCSD, Dr. Bryan Szumulas, said students should be prepared for their regular class schedule.

“If a student in Grade 10 had math at 11 o’clock, the expectation is they’re going to be using their technology to log into their math class at 11,” Szumulas said. “The teacher will do some instruction… and will be available to contact.”

The CCSD is also underscoring that all children will be learning online during school days at the beginning of January.

“Let me make it very clear, it is not a holiday,” Szumulas said.

“The expectation is that all of our Kindergarten to Grade 12 students and staff will be working online, that first week back in January.”

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Szumulas said the CCSD is also trying to accommodate in-person learning for some students.

We do have some diverse need students in special education type classes where we are working out plans to try and keep them in school because we know it’s going to be best for them.

“The provincial government has given us that flexibility for us to do so.

Likewise we’re also working on plans for those students who are lacking in hardware, technology or internet access,” Szumulas added.

The Calgary Board of Education sent an email to parents shortly after Tuesday’s announcement outlining the health measures.

“We know families have many questions about this announcement and what it means for their child’s learning,” CBE Superintendent Christopher Usih said. “More information will be shared as it becomes available.”


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