Calgary

'There is nothing going on with Hub': CBE parents, students still waiting to start online classes

Calgary Board of Education families who signed up for the Hub online learning program say they expected instruction from teachers to begin on Monday. Instead, many families say they're still waiting to find out who their child's teacher is and when real-time instruction will begin. 

Program an incredible amount of work and not without some hiccups, CBE says

Many families who are using the CBE's Hub online learning say they're still waiting to find out who their child's teacher is and when real-time instruction will begin. (Juliya Shangarey/Shutterstock)

Families who signed up for the Calgary Board of Education's (CBE) Hub online learning program say they expected instruction from teachers to begin on Monday. Instead, many families say they're still waiting to find out who their child's teacher is and when real-time instruction will begin. 

Tamara Rose's daughter was set to begin the CBE's Hub online learning on Monday, or so she thought. 

"There is nothing going on with Hub," she told CBC News on Monday.

Rose said that on Friday, she and all other Hub families received an email from the CBE informing them that their children would all find out who their teachers were by Wednesday, and classes would start after that. 

"We just don't have any information as to what time we need to be home, and in front of our computers to be able to let the kids connect with their teachers," she said. "We're kind of all just in the dark right now."

Tamara Rose says keeping her seven-year-old daughter Scarlett home in September is a necessity. (Tamara Rose)

Hanson Feng is a Grade 12 student who usually attends Sir. Winston Churchill, but has opted for Hub online this year.

He said online classes actually did get off to a flying start last week — before being abruptly stopped.

"This morning we received an email from our teacher that they were putting all classes on hold until Wednesday or Thursday due to technical difficulties and adding new students," he said. "So at this point I don't know what's going on, and I'm taking it day by day. But, it's very disorganized."

Karen Lord has four kids in Grades 1 to 8 enrolled in Hub, and doesn't know who any of their teachers are yet. 

She said last week, to get kids started with Hub, they were all given independent introductory work. But Lord said all of her kids have flown through those assignments.

"For math, for instance, there literally were four links for Grade 1,  and so we did one on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and then, of course, nothing was updated over the weekend and so, we're out," she said.

"I was sort of hoping that over the weekend they would add a little bit more content to it because we've sort of blown through a lot of it, but they didn't. And that's OK. So we've just sort of been making it up as we go, which is fine."

At this point I don't know what's going on, and I'm taking it day by day. But, it's very disorganized.- Hanson Feng, Grade 12 Hub student

Lord said her youngest kids, who are in Grade 1, still haven't been provided the Google account information required to sign into their virtual classroom. 

Lord said although it has been made clear to Hub families that because they aren't paying school fees this year they'll have to buy school supplies for their children, she hasn't been provided any kind of list as to what exactly they'll need. 

"I'm convinced that the Grade 8 [student] will have actual textbooks that he might need, and that I will now need to purchase because, I mean, it's Grade 8. It's, like, guaranteed he's got some sort of social studies textbook or something that I need to get, only I have no idea what that is," she said. 

A 'Herculean' effort

Joanne Pitman, CBE superintendent of school improvement, said Hub remains on time, as the school board always indicated that real-time instruction would begin the week of Sept.14 to 18. 

She said over the last two weeks, it's been nothing short of a Herculean effort to both make sure that the CBE has all of the correct information from student registrations that finalized on the evening of Aug. 31, and then begin the process to reallocate teachers based on which schools those students originally attended.

"From a human resources standpoint, also consider any of the medical accommodations that we we're required to be able to support, and then hire over 150 new teachers to also continue to support," she said.

"So we're actually, in under two weeks, reassigning and building in over 700 teachers to be able to support the just under 20,000 students who have registered for Hub." 

Joanne Pitman, superintendent of school improvement, said that while the schools have lots of online resources available, they understand it's not the only thing that will be required. (CBC)

Pitman said while some CBE schools will have seen significant changes in enrolment based on the number who have chosen Hub this year, in other cases a school might only have seen 50 students scattered across a range of grades register. 

"And so it's not simply a matter of saying, 'well, now you have to move a teacher to teach the Hub,'" she said.

"Our high school Hub has been wildly complex because, of course, in that particular environment, the students have a broad range of courses in both core and complementary … It has absolutely been an incredible amount of work and it has not been without some hiccups."

The superintendent said the reassignment of teachers isn't just having an impact on Hub students, either. Some students already established in CBE classrooms could see their teacher changed, or their class merged with another — meaning their class size will increase, too.

"There's always challenges any time that there are changes to what a student or a child begins with, and then all of a sudden there's a required change, and while that happens in a quote-unquote 'normal' year, this year certainly there is an increase in situations where that has had to occur, so that we can respond to the student enrolment in Hub," she said. 

"It has been higher than obviously anyone would like, and our schools are working through how they can transition those students and make sure that they've still been able to make the necessary adjustments for schedules in person. In some schools the impact has been larger, and in other schools it's been negligible."

We know our parents and students are keen to get this underway, and so are we. So we really appreciate the patience.- Joanne Pitman, CBE Superintendent of School Improvement

Pitman said the board continues to work around the clock on things in the background, including technological complications, and making sure all teachers and students are assigned and can access all their online materials when things take off.

"We know our parents and students are keen to get this underway, and so are we," she said. "So we really appreciate the patience."

When Natasha Brubaker, who has one son in Grade 5 signed up for Hub, spoke with the CBC Monday afternoon she also hadn't yet heard who his teacher would be or when classes would start. But hours later, the email Brubaker and all Hub parents have been waiting for arrived. 

She found out who her son's teacher was, what school supplies she should buy for him, and that his first online meeting with his teacher and classmates would be on Thursday. 

"On the one hand, I would like this to get moving a bit faster. On the other hand, I really appreciate what a challenge this is for the CBE," she said. "I mean this is a completely unique circumstance and it's an incredibly difficult and challenging circumstance. So I have a lot of patience and sympathy."

About the Author

Lucie Edwardson

Journalist

Lucie Edwardson is a reporter with CBC Calgary, currently focused on bringing you stories related to education in Alberta. In 2018 she headed a pop-up bureau in Lethbridge, Alta. Her experience includes newspaper, online, TV and radio. Follow her on Twitter @LucieEdwardson

With files from the Homestretch

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