More than 80% of students in the Lethbridge School Division will learn in-classroom: parent survey results

Click to play video: 'Majority of parents sending students to classroom in fall: Lethbridge School Division survey'
Majority of parents sending students to classroom in fall: Lethbridge School Division survey
WATCH ABOVE: After surveying parents about their children’s return-to-school plans amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Lethbridge School Division has a better idea of how many students will be returning in-person, and what the next steps will be. Eloise Therien has the details, and how LSD’s plan compares to other divisions in the area – Aug 13, 2020

According to the findings of a recent survey, the majority students with the Lethbridge School Division will be returning to the classroom in September.

After the government of Alberta announced that K-12 schools across the province would be returning for the 2020-21 school year under near-normal conditions, the Lethbridge School Division launched a survey to learn how many students were planning on returning to school and how many wished to continue with at-home learning.

Altogether, 8,923 people filled out the survey, which inquired about two key topics: if their child would be returning to in-classroom learning, and if qualified families would be using school buses for transportation.

The results show that the majority of parents wish for their students to return to in-classroom learning on Sept. 1, with 82.9 per cent of respondents — or 7,397 students — choosing the traditional classroom setting.

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The remaining 1,536 students will be allocated into at-home learning cohorts.

Around 3,000 students were unaccounted for.

“We sent out, at least three or four times, communication to the families that if they do not respond to the survey, we will assume that their son or daughter will fall under Scenario One,”  Lethbridge School Division Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Gilmore said. “Remember our at-home learning is an opt-out.”

Three “pivot points” will be provided to parents, should they wish to change their minds about what option they chose.

“We’re hopeful [the pivot points] provide at least some alternatives throughout the year,” Gilmore said. “If parents are wanting to change, that opportunity is provided for them.”
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While the online-learning model will differ for all grade levels, Gilmore said the school division is working out a system to make potential transitions seamless.

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For example, all high schools within the division will have the same common schedule, meaning at-home learners can expect to see unfamiliar teachers.

“A teacher from one school can deliver learning to students from a number of different schools because they are all following the same schedule,” Gilmore explained.

The division expects needing 70 – 80 teachers to facilitate online classes throughout the division, meaning fewer teachers will be available to facilitate in school learning at those times.

There may be, however, some teachers who teach both in-person and for at-home learners.

The Holy Spirit Catholic School Division, which serves around 5,100 students, is currently undergoing a similar surveying process.

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While there are still a few days left before their survey closes at midnight Saturday evening, Superintendent Ken Sampson says their response rate is very promising.

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“We’ve gotten… very close to 90 per cent response rate,” Sampson said. “Of that percentage, we have about 86 per cent of our students who are indicating that they’re going to be returning to learning at school.”

Unlike the Lethbridge School Division, Holy Spirit won’t be  providing exact pivot point dates, and isn’t encouraging students to opt-out of in-class learning once they start.

“We are asking our parents to provide a minimum of one month’s notice to our administrators if there’s a wish for them to pivot and move back into learning at school,” explained Sampson.

The second question on both parent surveys asked whether parents who qualified for busing would still be using that service, or if they would be transporting their children to school themselves.

Over half of survey respondents in LSD’s completed survey indicated they would be opting for the latter — but the division says those results may have been skewed by parents who were not supposed to answer the question.

Per City of Lethbridge requirement, all students must wear a face mask while riding the bus regardless of age. Around 3,600 students in the Lethbridge School Division ride the bus on a typical school year, and the division says two-metre physical distancing won’t always be possible at half-capacity.

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The Westwind School Division operates schools in areas such as Magrath, Cardston, Raymond and Stirling.

According to the WSD website, they “will not be providing at home/online learning options with community-based schools as parents experienced in the Spring of 2020,” but are providing other options such as home education — also known as homeschooling — a personalized education program and distance learning.

The Palliser School Division, which  operates schools in towns such as Coalhurst, Coaldale, Picture Butte and Vulcan, told Global News it will be providing some online options, as well as home education or homeschooling.

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