Last week's transition to online learning for K-12 students across Alberta was met with mixed reactions from Albertans.

The move was announced on Tuesday, May 4th, by Premier Jason Kenney and is set to last until May 25th.

This is the third province-wide transition to at-home learning following similar decisions being made in March and December of last year.

While some have lauded the provincial government's decision due to concern over the current case count, others object, citing detrimental effects on mental health for students.

For the Foothills School Division, the move comes with its share of highs and lows.

FSD Superintendent Chris Fuzessy says, first and foremost, it's never an ideal situation for anyone affected by such a decision.

"We, and I think our community, our teachers, and our students recognize that the best place for learning to take place is in schools... it's a difficult position for families to be in right now, especially at the K-6 level. We will do our best to try and support them through that over the next couple of weeks."

What that said, the move will introduce some consistency compared to previous months, where classes, grades, and even entire schools were being transitioned to at-home learning depending on caseloads.

"It does provide an equity of opportunity, more specifically in our grade 7-12 cohorts, because we have seen some of our schools transition to online learning prior to that provincial decision. Prior to that decision, we had multiple learning opportunities taking place across the division, whether that be students at home and their teachers at school or vice versa," says Fuzessy.

Additionally, the transition lightens the load for contact tracing efforts among FSD staff, at least temporarily.

"It certainly turns down the temperature a little bit on all of the contact tracing that we do. That hasn't happened yet because there's about a week lag there, but it will allow us to turn our attention to other matters we need to consider in making sure the school division is doing the best it can."

One issue FSD is facing is with support staff.

With a small number of students still able to attend school in-person (namely, those requiring learning support,) Fuzessy says the number of support staff members might mean they'll be running a little thin here and there.

"We don't necessarily have enough, what we call 'casual support' in the support staff category of employees to be able to cover off if people are directed to self-isolate across the division. So we're well-positioned in one sense, but not necessarily with a different group of employees... In the announcement that the minister made, students with complex needs and those requiring specialized supports can continue to attend, but there are also students who do require a little bit of support in terms of learning challenges and that support can be provided online by that support staff as well, so it's a bit of a mix."

Fuzessy says their educational community continues to show tremendous resolve.

"I just want to offer a thank you to our families and our community for continuing to pivot and working with us under these circumstances to make sure that the kids' needs are met from an educational standpoint but also a socio-emotional standpoint. We value that partnership."

 

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