Edmonton Public Schools to continue to offer online learning next school year

An elementary student doing online learning in Toronto on Jan. 7, 2021. Caryn Lieberman / Global News

Edmonton Public Schools has outlined its plan for the 2021-22 school year, which again provides families with the option of in-person or online learning.

The school division said its goal is to have a gradual return to in-person learning, but added the evolving nature of the COVID-19 pandemic means that may not be possible for everyone at the beginning of the next school year.

Because of this, families will have an opportunity to choose in-person or online learning for the first half of the 2021-22 school year.

“We just felt that for that first half of the year, that we have to give options for families. There’s families that are feeling really confident that, ‘Yeah, now I want to go back to in-person learning. We’ve been online all year,’ and there may be families that aren’t ready for that move,” said Kathy Muhlethaler, assistant superintendent of operations with Edmonton Public Schools.

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“We want to honour that choice for families.”

Families will be asked to pre-enrol at their designated or preferred school by using SchoolZone. Pre-enrolment takes place from March 8 to April 15, 2021. Edmonton Public notes that no matter which learning option families choose, they will remain at the same school for the entire 2021-22 school year.

Read more: Extended virtual learning could broaden so-called ‘performance gap’: Experts

Between June 21 and Aug. 12, families will be asked to choose their preferred learning option — in-person or online — for the first half of the year. They will make their choice in SchoolZone.

Edmonton Public said if a full return to in-person learning is not possible for the second half of the year due to the pandemic, families will have another chance to select their preferred learning option for the remainder of the year.

“When school begins in the fall, we anticipate health protocols will continue to be in place,” Edmonton Public said in a statement on its website. “We know many families may still wish to have a choice in how their child learns. We also know some families have found that online learning best suits their child’s needs.”

“We will work with Alberta Health and with the Alberta government and we will signal to parents in December whether or not we will have all our students back to in-person learning for the second half of the school year or that we’ll provide an opportunity for further choice around online and in-person learning for the second half of the school year,” Muhlethaler said Friday.

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Read more: Edmonton Catholic Schools to offer online learning through 2021-22 school year

Families who would like to choose online learning for the entire school year are asked to enrol at Argyll Centre, which offers home education as well as online distance learning that is teacher directed.

“One of the things it’s important for parents to understand, if they choose Argyll School as an option for next year, is that they will not be guaranteed a placement at the school that they’re currently at for the following year after,” Muhlethaler stressed. “That’s particularly schools that are lottery schools or they’re an entrance criteria school or they’re a program of choice school that’s oversubscribed.”

Late last month, Edmonton Catholic Schools announced it would continue to offer online learning as an option for the entire 2021-22 school year.

“We believe in-person learning is the best environment for our students,” chief superintendent Robert Martin said in February.

“However, the pandemic has revealed that some students are more comfortable in an online learning environment. We have met the challenge before us this school year and have built an excellent online program that will support our students’ learning experience now and into the future.”

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For the current school year, Edmonton Public Schools offered families the option to choose online or in-person learning on a quarterly basis. Muhlethaler said there are currently about 32,000 students learning online.

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