Students with disabilities in Alberta will be allowed to stay in the classroom while most students move to at-home, online learning as early as Nov. 30, according to the province.
On Wednesday, education minister Adriana LaGrange clarified the exception.
“We recognize students with disabilities require specialized supports,” LaGrange said.
“We have made an exemption for them to be able to learn in a school environment.”
Students in junior high and high school move to at-home learning next week. It’s part of plan to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in schools.
The province says the exemption is outlined online in the K-12 Learning During COVID-19.
“All superintendents and boards have been made aware of these exemptions and have been provided a contact within Alberta Education to assist them with this process if needed,” LaGrange’s press secretary, Colin Aitchison, said in a statement.
“This exemption is informed by advice and with the concurrence of the chief medical officer of health.
“We encourage parents to work with their teacher and school principal on appropriate arrangements as individual cases will vary.”
Edmonton Catholic Schools says principals were informed of this Thursday morning.
“As of next week, we could have the teacher of a junior or senior high school class in the classroom teaching a few students with disabilities, while also teaching students synchronously who are online,” spokesperson Lori Nagy explained in a statement.
“Individual Program Plans (IPP) are in place for students with disabilities and the IPPs help to guide and support their learning. If a student with disabilities is in the classroom and works with an Educational Assistant (EA) or other personalized supports while at school, then the EA or support would remain with the student.”
Edmonton Public Schools did not provide Global News with any information about the exemptions.
Learning with disabilities
Back in September, Greta Gerstner’s two children opted to go back to school, choosing that method over online learning.
“Even though they are in high risk because they have asthma,” Gerstner explained, “because they both have learning disabilities in reading, writing and math.”
She said in-person instruction is how they learn best.
Her daughter is in Grade 8 and not happy about heading back online.
“Because of her learning disability, she can’t learn online,” Gerstner said.
“She needs to be engaged with all of her senses, she needs to be able to see it, engage with her peers, ask the teacher questions.”
Gerstner is worried her daughter won’t have enough support.
“Now she’s going to be thinking that she’s doing something wrong because her marks are going to slip and there’s nothing that she or I can do about it,” she explained.
Gerstner’s kids are both in the Edmonton Public School Division.
She noted she did reach out to her daughter’s principal Thursday morning.
“I have talked to the school, like many parents that have children with disabilities that are being pushed online, and our principal told us that he has not been given any information on how that would look.”
So for now, they’re preparing for life in the virtual classroom until the new year.
“The hardest part is that, unfortunately, she will not be able to reach her full potential,” Gerstner said.