Earlier this week I heard a radio news announcer declare that this week was week six.
I stopped mid scoop as I was putting cereal into bowls for my kid’s breakfast. Week six. What?
Has it really been that long since my kids and I drafted up pandemic to-do lists filled to the brim with lofty goals and aspirational dreams (update: very little achieved.) Has it really been six weeks since I watched my kids and others walk to school or six weeks since teachers were face-to-face with their students?
At Edmonton Public Schools the Board of Trustees continues to meet for our regular board meetings. At this week’s meeting we will be getting a thorough update from administration on what the division has been doing to support students during this challenging time which is now affectionately known as “emergency remote learning.”
I have received numerous phone calls and emails from parents who are concerned they are not doing enough, that their child may fall behind. They are wondering, for example, if all grade twos in Edmonton Public are learning the same content? They wonder how equitable online learning is right now?
The short answer is: this new way of learning really does look different for everyone. Those with concerns about workload (either too much or too little) I have encouraged to reach out to their child’s teacher or principal.
The even shorter answer is: yes, you are doing enough. You are doing the best you can and right now that means trying hard to ensure you and your kids are happy and healthy. Some days are easier than others, for sure.
As far as equity – that remains a top priority for me as a Trustee. I know there are families, who for whatever reason, are not able to connect with their school community right now. I do hope that access to technology or internet connectivity is not a barrier. I have been assured by administration that chrome books will be loaned to any student who needs one and that those families who don’t have an internet connection are being hooked up with Telus for $10/month internet or accessing one of the new Shaw hot spots that have been set up around our city. To date, about 13,000 chrome books have been loaned out to students.
Online educational supports for parents here
The guidance from Alberta Education is that K-6 students receive 5 hours of work per week, grades 7-9 ten hours a week and high school students about 15 hours a week.
The other key fact is that each student will progress to the next grade level. As well, every student who is eligible to graduate from Grade 12 this year will graduate.
Final grades and progress reports will be given to all K-12 students at EPSB in June.
“Teachers will determine final grades based on the best interests of the student and the evidence of student learning collected by the teacher before and after March 15, 2020. If a student completes a portion of a class or course and cannot engage in further learning and assessments offered, teachers will determine a final mark based on their professional judgement and the student’s standing as of March 15, 2020.”
Though this is encouraging and what should happen I do have concerns about how gaps in student learning will be addressed once students return to in-person classes. As herculean as our efforts are as parents to educate and support our children, nothing can replace the experience of being in a class with a teacher and peers. I’m looking ahead to when in-person classes resume and thinking about what supports will need to be in place to support all students when they return to school.
Students will need many of the same things they have always needed; caring teachers, access to high quality resources and technology and safe, clean spaces to learn. For some, additional supports will be needed such as help from an educational assistant, support from a mental health therapist or access to a breakfast or lunch program. I suspect given the ongoing impact COVID-19 is having on our economy many more families will benefit from our strong nutritional program at EPSB. I’m also concerned about student mental health, not just now, but when we all return to classes.
The Board of Trustees knows the needs will be great and are committed to advocating to our provincial government to share what those needs are in the coming months.
Hang in there. And a huge shout out to all the parents who are juggling so many demands right now. This is not easy and as I wrote earlier, some days it’s important to just focus on the small things. Also, reach out for help if you need it.
Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868
Health Link: 811
Mental Health Helpline: 1-877-303-2642
Provincial 211 ( provides referrals for community, government, and social services