Parents with children in the Edmonton Catholic School Division will have to choose between in-person or online classes for their children for the rest of the year by Oct. 15.
Alberta’s education minister, Adriana LaGrange, mandated all schools in the province return to in-class learning this fall. Edmonton Catholic Schools offered the additional choice of online learning. They also divided the school year into quarters and allowed parents and students to choose each quarter whether they would attend a classroom or online.
Initially, the school division permitted families four different times within the academic year when they could revisit their decision regarding in-person or online learning. Students could move between the two learning options every quarter.
Now, no more changes can be made for the rest of the school year after deciding by Oct. 15. Rather than have students move each quarter, at the end of this quarter, students will make their only move this year to either online or to in-person and will be required to remain learning that way for the remainder of the year.
“The idea of reconfiguring staffing and scheduling three more times this academic year places a tremendous strain on available resources,” said Tim Cusack the Deputy Superintendent of the Edmonton Catholic School Division (ECSD) in a video to parents. “It may have an impact on the quality of learning for the students.”
One problem that became apparent as the school district prepared for a quarterly change was the disruption to the continuity of education. Students could have a different teacher each quarter, Cusack explained.
“Our goal therefore is to be as minimally disruptive as possible to the continuity of teaching and learning for both students and staff” Robert Martin, the Chief Superintendent of ECSD said in the same video to parents.
There would be significant additional planning required, regarding timetables and assigning staff as needed, in order to adjust for a number of students changing between online or in-person each and every quarter.
“It has become evident that human resources would be stretched to their limits,” the ECSD website explained.
“To accommodate the demand for online learning our division hired over 95 additional teachers to ensure all students has supports in place for their learning,” Cusack said.
The school board is also having difficulties hiring qualified Catholic teachers since many school jurisdictions across the province have been hiring more teachers this year to deal with changes required by the pandemic.
Enhanced health and safety guidelines also add to the responsibilities of parents and school staff during the second wave of the pandemic.
Teachers, staff, and students across Alberta must review a self-screening questionnaire daily before entering a school building. Visitor must also use the questionnaire to determine if they should enter the school.
The screening questionnaire asks for a self-assessment of the attendee regarding any new or worsening symptoms such as fever, cough, shortness of breath or sore throat. The questionnaire also asks attendees if they have travelled outside of Canada, or had contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19, within the last 14 days.
Staff, students and parents who have symptoms, who travelled outside the country or have been in contact with a positive case within the last 14 days are asked to not enter the school and should stay at home and use the Alberta Health Services COVID-19 Self Assessment Tool to determine whether testing is needed.