Heavy snow that keeps school buses off rural roads doesn’t mean a day off for students, whether they make it to class or not, say administrators.
Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools cancelled buses for schools in Blackfalds, Sylvan Lake, Olds, Innisfail and Rocky Mountain House area on Monday.
Chinook’s Edge School Division cancelled buses for Olds, Sylvan Lake, Penhold, Innisfail, Bowden, Elnora and Delburne. Wild Rose School Division cancelled all its buses. Wolf Creek shut down both its buses and schools.
“They are not snow days that we pop in a movie and everybody does their own thing,” said Dave Khatib, associate superintendent of inclusive learning at Red Deer Catholic.
“We take every opportunity on occasions like this to work closely with students. If there’s a smaller number of students in the classroom, then we’re able to individualize learning even more so than we could on a regular day.
“We don’t want to see any day put to waste and we’ll do all we can to work with students during these occasions.”
Khatib said group lesson plans are no longer the norm, so if students miss school due to weather or illness, every effort is made so students learn concepts that they miss when they return.
“It’s not something that’s one and done. If a student does miss school, we’re able to timely make sure they get the information that they missed from the day so they’re not missing chunks of their education.”
“That’s just part of good teaching and we make sure that happens,” Khatib said.
Kurt Sacher, Chinook’s Edge superintendent, said teachers are encouraged to have some kind of a plan to keep learning moving forward for those who don’t make it to class, and those who show up.
“Teachers will have to use their judgment as to moving the curriculum along. It certainly is a challenge and we respect that.
“At the same time, we feel an obligation to our communities to remain open unless it’s unsafe for staff travel later in the day,” Sacher said.
More than 5,000 of the 11,000 students at Chinook’s Edge ride buses.
He said so far this school year, only Cremona had to both cancel buses and close its school due to weather.
There are maybe four or five days a year when buses don’t run at Chinook’s Edge, but weather can also vary around a large school division and impact individual schools, he said.
“It’s the nature of the beast in a rural school division that you’re going to have weather patterns, and if we’re contemplating a decision and we don’t know which way to go, we err on the side of safety and don’t run the bus. It’s not worth taking the risk,” Sacher said.