Lethbridge asks for input from parents on school reopening plans amid COVID-19 pandemic

Click to play video: 'Lethbridge School Division exploring options for 2020-21 school year' Lethbridge School Division exploring options for 2020-21 school year
WATCH: Lethbridge School Division exploring options for 2020-21 school year – Jun 8, 2020

The 2019-2020 school year took a turn due to a world-wide pandemic, but now the question is, what will next year look like?

“I know a lot of people are very concerned about everything else opening up but the school, and what to do if you’re a working parent,” said Ceri Penner, a mom of four and former school teacher.

“It’s very challenging, there is just so much coordinating and planning ahead and, of course, nothing is certain.”

Penner is a stay at home mom, her husband is currently working from home and they have children in Grade five, Grade three, and grade one, as well as one who’s not old enough for school quite yet. Penner says she understands the pressures many parents are facing with not knowing what this fall will bring, and what they can be prepared for.

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She added she thinks it will be a challenge if schools decided to do at home learning right out of the gate.

“I do think it would be considerably more challenging to start the school year that way, when you may not have met the kids in your class, there’s no comradery and that relationship, connection with the teacher,” she said.

Click to play video: 'A day in the life of a teacher working from home' A day in the life of a teacher working from home
A day in the life of a teacher working from home – May 28, 2020

Lethbridge School division is asking parents to fill out a survey, so the division can find out what parents and students are hoping for next year.

“If you’re a parent, and things are back to where the province says ‘We’re not having distance protocols in place, all students can come back to school,’ We need to know, well how many parents will send their students to school?” said superintendent Cheryl Gilmore.

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READ MORE: Alberta working with 3 scenarios for school re-entry plan

The province has said there are three possibilities for next year: regular operations, a blended format, or learning from home, as students are now.

If the province chooses a combination, Gilmore said keeping a two meter distance means less students in the school.

“Blended means we won’t be able to fit all of our students in the building at one time, they have to have smaller cohorts going through the buildings and we also don’t know what that will look like for transportation,” she explained.

The decision will be up to the province. A statement from the Office of the Minister of Education said it’s working with the chief medical officer of health and school associations to make their decision.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Discussions ongoing to figure out how to continue K-12 education for Lethbridge students

The full statement from Colin Aitchison, press secretary at the Office of the Minister of Education reads:

“We are currently working with the Chief Medical Officer of Health, education partners, including the Alberta School Boards Association, the Alberta School Councils’ Association, the Alberta Teachers’ Association, the Association of Independent Schools and Colleges in Alberta and individual school divisions to develop a re-entry plan for the upcoming school year. Once a plan has been finalized we will communicate that to both the education system and the public. School authorities will be provided with enough time to prepare their schools as we transition into the 2020-21 school year, and our aim is to communicate a finalized plan prior to August 1st 2020.”

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Penner added the thought of her kids missing out on another school year is tough, not just for the educational aspect, but also the socializing and life lessons learned.

“There is so much in terms of development, learning problem solving and getting along, reading social situations that you just don’t [get] with your brothers or sisters, if you even have brothers and sisters, we do have kids that are alone at home,” Penner said.

The ministers office said it’s aiming to have a finalized plan prior to Aug. 1, 2020.


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