John Carstairs says his granddaughter has made the difficult decision to opt-in to in-class learning for the upcoming year with the Lethbridge School Division as restrictions from the coronavirus pandemic stretch into September.
“That’s the preferred choice, but it’s a Sophie’s Choice,” Carstairs admitted.
He wants to keep the identity of his granddaughter and her school anonymous, but says the choice didn’t leave her or their family feeling settled.
“My granddaughter is really nervous about going to the school in-person, but she wants that so much more than online, and she’s not alone.”
Carstairs says he has offered to come out of retirement as a life-long professor, and offer his teaching experience for free to help ease the class-size burden which is on the top of many parents’ minds.
“What’s needed is an opportunity for parents to express themselves other than ticking boxes on a survey,” Carstairs said. “Even if they had set up a small advisory committee of parents.”
Lethbridge School Division superintendent Dr. Cheryl Gilmore says they hear the concerns, but are going ahead with the only options they have.
“Some individuals think that we’re asking for information too early,” Gilmore said. “Actually, we’re feeling a little bit pressed for time, in terms of being able to turn this around and get all of our students into classes and all of our staff assigned.”
She’s heard some parents are waiting to see whether more students opt-out but clarifies officials won’t reduce class sizes.
“That would only hold true if we were hiring new staff to teach at-home delivery,” Gilmore explained.
“Certainly, we don’t have the funds from the province to do that. Instead, staff will be reassigned.”
Gilmore says while there will be pivot points throughout the school year to opt back in or out, this first survey is crucial.
“If a parent, say two days before school starts, says, ‘Well I want at-home learning,’ we might not have room in one of our at-home learning cohorts,” Gilmore warns.
The Lethbridge School Division online parent survey closes at midnight on Monday night.
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