Most students with Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools have chosen online learning at home during the pandemic, but they can still choose pen and paper. (Photo contributed)

Old habits continue during COVID-19 schooling

Options available to central Alberta students

Some students have shunned online learning during the pandemic in favour of old-fashioned pen and paper.

“We do have families, maybe 10 to 15 per cent, who have chosen not to access work via the computer. Some students just don’t learn well via a computer,” said Dave Khatib, superintendent of inclusive learning at Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools.

He said teachers can safely provide printed materials, which can be a popular way of working through more intense courses such as high school math. Access to technology or the Internet may also play a role.

Other students, like those with complex needs, are benefiting by connecting with teachers through online forums and maintaining social interaction, he said.

“We’ve got students who have hearing impairments, and teachers have set up visual sign language with them to help them navigate through this time,” Khatib said.

Stu Henry, Red Deer Public Schools superintendent, said only a few families in the district have opted for the paper option.

Over 1,000 laptop computers have been loaned to district families, and some have received USB sticks to access the Internet.

He said parents have definitely become more engaged with education.

“When they’re busy with their real world and their jobs, it’s tough for them to stay connected to the school. But when they’re quarantined themselves, they’re very, very connected to their schools and their child’s education, and that’s a great thing.

“It’s kind of a small blessing in this horrible time,” Henry said.

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Khatib agreed teachers, students and parents have risen to the COVID-19 challenge. But educators remain aware of stressors in students’ lives and that there may be some learning gaps during this global phenomenon, he said.

Students won’t be penalized for their performance, but there is an Alberta Education mandate to progress through the curriculum.

“We know there are going to be hiccups and we know there are going to be issues. We know the outcomes are going to cause some concerns next year, but we’ll address those concerns. We’ve got amazing staff and we know they’ll fill in any gaps,” Khatib said.

Judy Arnall, president of the Alberta Homeschooling Association, said moving education out of the classroom has given families a taste of home schooling and some parents want to learn more about it.

“They were pushed into this and they’re kind of liking it, and they’re looking at formalizing it for the fall,” Arnall said.

“They are not in the driver’s seat, or teacher’s chair yet, but they are looking at making the move,” she said about the education option that allows parents to choose the types of resources used, so it is not limited to textbooks.

Arnall said the No. 1 reason for homeschooling is to avoid bullying. There are also parents who want to travel, they may have special needs children, want more updated curriculum, or desire more family time.



szielinski@reddeeradvocate.com

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