Friday, May 20, 2022

Calgary Catholic School District limits online schooling

So far, two classes within the district have transitioned to online learning

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A Calgary school district has introduced measures to indicate when students are expected to return to online learning in the absence of a provincewide limit.

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The Calgary Catholic School District said in a letter to parents on Friday that students in the class will be home-schooled for 10 school days when class attendance is down by 25 percent.

“Students may be absent from school for the following reasons – parental decision, illness, medical appointment, public health leave, unknown or other,” the letter reads.

“Parents/guardians should be prepared with a backup plan in case their child’s classroom is affected.”

According to the CCSD, so far two classes within the district have made the transition to online teaching. Nearly 85 percent, or 117 out of 100 schools, were reporting a 10 percent or higher student absence rate in the past week.

129 CCSD employees were on public health leave. The district said it was able to fill 80 to 85 percent of teacher absenteeism with substitutes last week, with the remaining positions being covered by administrators.

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“We hope that all our students, teachers and staff who currently have COVID-19/Omicron will feel better soon,” the letter read.

The Calgary Board of Education has not announced a specific absence limit for return to home learning. A board spokesperson said on Sunday that the transition to online learning would be based on operational efficiency pressures due to staff absence, as well as monitoring student absences due to illness.

“Our priority is to provide continuity in in-person learning to the maximum extent possible and ensure that we are able to effectively support transitions when necessary,” the spokesperson said.

Six classes in the CBE system are expected to be held online on Monday. On Friday, the board recorded an absence of 1,121 staff: 840 teachers and 281 support staff. When classes began, about 150 more teachers were absent compared to January 10, but about 150 fewer support staff were absent.

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Four days before schools reopen on January 10, Alberta Education said it would work with school officials “to address operational challenges at the school” that require learning at home.

Decisions to move entire schools or school officials back to online learning will be considered, according to the province, student and staff absenteeism rates, and local health data when local health data becomes available.

Mediana Moussa, executive director of the Support Our Students Advocacy Group, said the province should take responsibility for absenteeism rates rather than leave it to individual school boards to decide.

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“We’re going to end up with a patchwork and a very fragmented set of different thresholds and guidelines and how the transition will work if the government doesn’t step in and provide clear guidance on this,” Moussa said. “

According to the Government of Alberta, public health measures are in place to support the safe operation of schools, including mandatory masking for grades 4 and up, physical distancing when possible, improved sanitation and daily symptom screening.

Alberta Health spokesman Jason Maloney previously told Postmedia that the province would move to a new approach to reporting school outbreaks on January 13, with details to be shared “at a later date.” However, the provincial list of school outbreaks has been removed from the government’s website, with an online statement saying that the list is due to be no longer operational.

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Moussa said parents don’t have the right to make decisions about whether to place their child in the classroom without clear information about illnesses in schools.

“Knowledge is empowering. It helps us make decisions for our families every day and assess the risk we are willing to take,” she said. “This information is important for parents and students.”

Elsewhere, several post-secondary institutions in Alberta have decided to stick with online learning for at least another six weeks due to the spread of the COVID-19 omicron variant.

On Friday, Mount Royal University announced it would adopt a phased approach, with some individual instruction beginning on January 24 and all students expected to return to campus on February 28.

bgervais@postmedia.com

Twitter: @BrittGervaisAB

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