Both the Calgary Catholic School Board and the Calgary Board of Education are reassuring families of school-aged children across the city during the COVID-19 outbreak.
They say teams have been working on a pandemic plan for weeks. Continuing education and communicating with parents are priorities.
“This thing is growing minute by minute and hour by hour, so as we gain more information, we will share it so we are all on a level playing field,” said CSSD chief Supt. Dr. Bryan Szumlas on Monday.
There is planning underway for an online model, but the reality is that it won’t work for all families.
“It’s really delicate. We just can’t say the solution is online learning. Many families — we know here in Calgary Catholic, 40 per cent of our families… have diverse needs,” Szumlas said. “We are assuming everyone has Wi-Fi capability so we don’t want to advantage some and not advantage others.”
CBE officials said this is difficult but necessary. Teachers and support staff across both districts are still at the schools working with colleagues to provide support for families.
CBE superintendent of school improvement Joanne Pitman said Grade 12 students are a critical part of the overall plan.
“We want to ensure our Grade 12 students have enough credentials to pursue post-secondary and we have prioritized our high school programming first,” Pitman said.
Pitman said they want to make sure any plan they roll out is secure and reliable before it is distributed to families, insisting they have the resources available for all students.
“We are in the middle of developing contingency planning and the reference to our online platform certainly has the ability to provide a great deal of online learning,” Pitman said. “We recognize though that that cannot be the only solution and this is where our collective work is important.”
Adjusting to a new normal that feels anything but is a challenge for thousands of families.
Jodi Krieger and her husband run their own business and now have two school-aged kids at home. Krieger said finding a balance between maintaining the income and schooling their children is new territory.
“All they told us was school was closed. As a parent, that is scary because you sit there and think, ‘What do we do now?'” Krieger said.
Sensing that uncertainty, parent Shazia Awan-Qureshi started a grassroots initiative. A growing number of families have joined her virtual community on Facebook. She called it YYC/Alberta Covid-19 Free Resources for Home Learning.
“In just 24 hours, we have over 1,000 members in the group. The response has been positive and I’m hoping it’s giving people a sign that it is possible,” Awan-Qureshi said.
She said kids will adapt.
“Just take a deep breath and take some time to get used to it and make a plan and try to make the best of it. There are things you never get the time to do. We have all the time in the world,” Awan-Qureshi said.
Judy Arnall, the president of the Alberta Homeschooling Association, said there are a lot of free resources for parents and they shouldn’t be worried about kids falling behind.
“Parents can provide things school can’t, like a lot of conversations. You can help them to write letters to relatives — that all increases literacy,” Arnall said.
“They can learn through board games and baking or cooking — a lot of hands-on ways to learn things.”
There is still no indication of whether students will be back in the classroom before summer break.