Division News Article

Planning for re-entry in the fall

May 28th, 2020

We recognize and appreciate the work our teachers have been doing to make learning-at-home possible. Everyone has had to adjust their lives and the way they do their jobs and our teachers have a tremendous job while while prioritizing the needs of their students.

As the current school year winds down, no doubt many of you are wondering about re-entry plans for the new school year. (Cited source: Government of Alberta)

The province is working with school authorities and education system partners on developing a comprehensive re-entry plan that considers three scenarios, which could exist by September.

  • Normal school operations are able to resume.
  • Schools are partially reopened, with some level of restrictions.
  • Teacher-directed at-home learning continues.

It is unreasonable to plan fully for three very different scenarios. The province has stated they will make a decision by August 1st. We will patiently wait for the province to make a decision, and then we will act accordingly. In the meantime, here’s what we can expect a re-entry plan to include.

The re-entry plan will prioritize the safety and well-being of our teachers, staff and students.

In addition to the feedback gathered from the education system, the plan will honour collective bargaining agreements, and will be informed by Alberta’s Relaunch Strategy and advice provided by Alberta’s chief medical officer of health.

Is it possible some schools could open while others remain closed?
That is a possibility, especially if health guidelines end up being adjusted for different regions of the province. We will take guidance from the Chief Medical Officer of Health on that front.

What about certain grades going to school and others learning at home?
There are many options and variables under consideration. We are looking at things from all perspectives. No decisions have been made.

Some schools are saying it would be impossible to manage physical distance given space limitations in classrooms. How would that work?
There are many options and variables under consideration. We are looking at things from all perspectives. There are many questions about how to enforce physical distancing and other health considerations in schools – either because of spacing concerns, or how effectively students can follow rules that go against the nature of being a child, especially in the younger grades. No decisions have been made.

How our teachers will continue to plan for next year

It seems that no matter what decision the province makes, it is very possible that some instruction will occur remotely. It is also likely that students will need to work on devices as part of physical distancing.

Constructing high-quality learning activities can be time-intensive, so we’ve asked our teachers to consider designing learning experiences that could be implemented either in the classroom or online. They may create or find digital materials that can be accessed remotely or on a device in their classrooms.

All of our teachers have access to course content from the Alberta Distance Learning Centre (ADLC). These courses have been developed by experienced online teachers, specifically for online delivery. Teachers can use ADLC material as a foundation, then adjust the instruction and the assessments to the needs of students in their classes.

In general, it is probably easier to convert online learning to face-to-face instruction than the other way around.  And if learning at school remains unsettled, transitioning back and forth between online and face-to-face will not be as disruptive to students and staff if teachers are prepared for online delivery.

Focus on wellness

We anticipate that teachers will need to carefully balance plans for students’ wellness along with plans for academics. We encourage teachers to work with their school’s mental health “go-to educators” to learn ways to create a sense of community, how to observe students for signs of distress, and ways to respectfully and safely open conversations with students.

Planning for inclusion

Regardless of whether students are physically in the classroom or connecting online, it’s important to continue to plan for the diversity of learners. IPP goals and plans will be updated to reflect current learning conditions.

Pembina Hills has several structures built into next year’s education plan to support staff. School counselors, Success coaches and Inclusive Education Lead Teachers are actively collaborating in preparation to support staff and students.

Stay healthy

While this article focuses on planning and preparations for next year, it is also vitally important that our teachers get adequate rest over the summer. This continued state of uncertainty takes a toll on the mind and body. We will continue to support our teachers so they are healthy and strong when school begins in the fall, in whatever form it needs to be.