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Province to provide update on return-to-school measures Tuesday

Some parents will consider homeschooling if online learning isn’t available
Parker Hicks, five, grins as he shows off a drawing he did during at-home schooling back in April. Contributed photo

Tuesday morning, the provincial government will provide an update on health measures being taken to assist students’ return to school.

The 9 a.m. briefing will be welcomed by parents, especially those considering the option of homeschooling amid the ongoing pandemic.

Red Deer’s James Alexander has two children: Bryon, who will go into Grade 12 in the upcoming school year, and Kat, who will attend Grade 6.

Both of them are Red Deer Public School district students.

“I probably won’t send (Kat) for sure, but I’d like to send my senior, he’s in his last year of school,” Alexander said.

A recent poll suggests Canadian parents are divided over sending kids back to school.

The poll by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies found 59 per cent of respondents with children said they would send their kids to school if there is some type of classroom instruction at least a few days a week.

But 18 per cent said they would keep children at home, while the remaining 23 per cent said they didn’t know.

Alexander has parented over many school years and knows children pick up bugs at school.

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“Every other month, kids bring back home something: cold, flu, stomach flu, so how can we send them to the public setting the way it is with the COVID issue?”

Alexander wants to see an online learning option, similar to learning in the spring, when the pandemic hit the province.

But if that option isn’t available, then homeschooling for Kat will be on the table.

“If that’s not available, we won’t send her to school in September. We will consider homeschooling right away,” he said.

The Red Deer Catholic Regional School division’s website states a survey will be sent out to parents this month to find out whether parents are planning to send children back to school for in-person learning, or whether they’re choosing online methods.

“Your feedback will help us develop a learning plan on how best to support your child moving forward. Stay tuned,” the wesbite says.

Sylvan Lake mother Melissa Hicks is in the same boat as Alexander: not ruling out the homeschooling option for two of her three children: Jackson, 7, and Parker, 5.

Hicks wants the online learning option available for families who are nervous about sending children back to school.

“I would have to further my research on traditional homeschooling, but I wouldn’t rule it out,” the mother said.

Hicks said during March and April, she was able to dedicate the time her kids needed for learning at home, but that’s because she is a stay-at-home mom.

“It would be difficult for parents who are working, or for someone who is a single mom,” Hicks said.

Both central Alberta parents know their children miss the social aspect of schooling, but they are concerned about their health and wellness, especially since the recent spike in the central zone’s case numbers.

Springbrook mom Lyndsay Mechefske feels comfortable sending her five- and seven-year-old children back to school, especially because central Alberta COVID-19 numbers are not as high as in other areas, such as Calgary.

But the mom is playing it by ear.

“That can change in the next three weeks, depending on what happens,” she said.

“It’s not high in Red Deer city and Red Deer County. It’s all of the counties that are surrounding us (that have higher cases), like Stettler County and Starland County.

“It depends on where you live.”

Come September, school days will look mostly the same, with some modifications, said Education Minister Adriana LaGrange on July 21, when she announced students will be going back to school this fall under Alberta’s Scenario 1.

Tuesday morning, LaGrange and chief medical health officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw will provide an update to Albertans.

“We’ve provided the overall guidelines, but those fine details are left to the school division to implement, because they are in the best position to know what their realities are,” said LaGrange, who is the MLA for Red Deer-North, last month.

The education minister had encouraged parents to look at the health guidelines released by the province, because “the plan will work,” she said.

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