Students reassured pandemic’s academic impact will be taken into account

Some Grade 12 students concerned how pandemic will affect their post-secondary plans

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange reassured graduating high school students on Friday that the pandemic’s impact will be taken into account as they head to post-secondary institutions.

Red Deer College board chair Guy Pelletier said some students are worried about the repercussions the pandemic and schools’ responses to it could have on their education plans.

Schools were closed in mid-March and classes went online about a week later. For high school students, most diploma exams were cancelled.

Many Grade 12 students are concerned about how post-secondary institutions will weigh students’ qualifications — and whether it will be consistent across the country — in the current pandemic climate.

“There needs to be some co-ordination across the country at Grade 12 and post secondary,” said Pelletier.

There are fears different provinces will treat students’ qualifications for post-secondary or post-graduate programs differently, depending on the province they’re from and how academics were affected by COVID-19 responses.

For instance, the University of Alberta made the decision in the spring to drop final exams and simply award students a pass or fail mark. Some students protested that move, which was not embraced by many of the country’s universities and colleges.

LaGrange told Pelletier that Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides is well aware of concerns, and they have been raised during the weekly conferences post-secondary school leaders have.

“We will monitor this very closely,” said LaGrange, who was in Red Deer to provide an update on her ministry’s COVID response at a Red Deer District & Chamber of Commerce organized event.

Alberta Education knows that not all students have the same opportunity to learn online, she said. Also being monitored are absentee rates, which could indicate issues that need to be addressed.

“We’re all learning how to deal with COVID,” she said. “(These are) extraordinary times and we’re dealing with extraordinary measures.”

Red Deer College president Peter Nunoda said they are already preparing to take into account the unique circumstances students are facing this year.

“This is an exceptional year,” said Nunoda.

If students want to come to Red Deer College, it is committed to finding a way for that to happen, he said, a view shared by other post-secondary administrators.

“All of us are committed to access to (post-secondary) institutions.”

LaGrange said reopening schools has proven successful. While 163 students have tested positive at 97 schools, 96 per cent of the province’s schools have had no cases identified.

So far, 10 teachers have tested positive, a 0.01 per cent infection rate.

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