A few students at Red Deer Public Schools have already left the classroom in favour of at-home learning.
Other students have given up at-home learning in favour of lessons in front of an actual teacher.
The jurisdiction is so far allowing students to leave the classroom in favour of in-home learning anytime during the school year.
But Dan Lower, associate superintendent of learning services, said that policy could change.
“We haven’t, unlike some other school boards, said it’s a definitive no. If you’re currently in school and want to go to at-home learning, we would entertain this idea and try to accommodate where we possibly can on a case-by-case basis,” Lower said.
But at some point, switching to at-home learning may not be possible, because Red Deer Public is not taking teachers out of the classroom to be at-home learning teachers, he said.
“We still have the same complement of teachers that we were planning on, but have hired 21 additional teachers to take care of K to 12 at-home learning. The more kids withdraw from an in-school situation, it would maybe mean we need to hire more staff.
“It becomes a manpower issue. We simply don’t have the resources to keep hiring teachers. We’re trying to accommodate families and situations. But I do foresee there may be a point where we can’t do it anymore.”
He said a significant portion of recent federal funding, and reserve funding, was used to hire at-home teachers.
Lower said so far, a “smattering” of students have switched to either at-home or in-class learning, but the more students transition, the more learning loss a student may experience.
“Going back and forth is not good for the continuity of learning. We’re coming off the pandemic in the spring, where depending on the home school situation, there may be some gaps in learning we’re trying to address.”
He has heard of a few high school students who have switched to in-home learning because they have younger siblings who were sent home while their parents must work.
“Those are just the realities of families, unfortunately. In those cases, schools are having a really tough time talking people out of moving to at-home learning, because it’s about their family economics. If there’s an option to do it at home for their high school kids, they are sometimes being forced to do it.”
When it comes to switching to in-class learning, students can return to the classroom during September. But come October, they can only return at specific points in the school year — Oct. 13, Dec. 7 and March 22 for elementary students; Dec. 7 and March 22 for middle school students; and Feb. 1 for high school students.