Remote learning centre promises help for Manitoba students, educators returning to classes virtually
Centre should have been running long ago, says Manitoba Association for Parent Councils executive director
The province says a newly launched online portal will offer an array of support for both educators and students in Manitoba, many of whom are returning to school virtually following the winter holiday.
Classes resumed Monday, with students in Grade 7 to 12 required to learn remotely from home for the next two weeks in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19 following the break.
Meanwhile, elementary students have the option to attend class or work remotely until Jan. 18.
Winnipeg parent Melanie Mansell is keeping her sons, who are in grades 4 and 10, home in case COVID-19 cases spike after the holidays.
"I feel more confident about the learning that they'll be doing this next two weeks" from home, she said. "I think it's much more organized than it was at the beginning of the pandemic."
The province says parents like Mansell will be able to access help through Manitoba Education's Remote Learning Support Centre, launched this week to provide more assistance for both educators and students, and to level the playing field across divisions when it comes to delivering at-home learning.
"We had some concerns that it wasn't always even, or equally applied, because some divisions just simply have more experience with remote learning or more resources to implement it," Kelvin Goertzen, who was education minister prior to a Tuesday cabinet shuffle, said Monday.
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The online portal, a $10-million initiative developed in collaboration with school divisions, will offer teachers help with lesson planning and technical assistance, as well as mental health support for teachers and students who have moved to remote learning.
More than 100 staff are working at the centre, including approximately 60 certified teachers, coaches and educational assistants, said Donna Davidson, the department lead with Manitoba Education.
Teachers can access an array of materials and strategies or log on to request technical or instructional support from a coach.
"It's kind of a menu, so you would select according to the need and how best the centre could [offer] support," said Davidson.
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Certified teachers will also be available to provide direct help to some students, she said.
"It includes a cohort of teachers offering remote learning for more particularly our smaller school divisions that do not have the capacity to offer kindergarten to Grade 8 remote learning."
Another cohort of teachers will act as "home-school connectors" to offer direct support to students and families who are new to homeschooling as a result of the pandemic.
"We've already had parents reach out," Davidson said. "They're connected with a teacher who can provide resources if they request, or answer some questions that they might have around learning and how they can best support their child."
'Too little, too late': parent councils association
Brenda Brazeau, executive director of the Manitoba Association of Parent Councils, calls the launch of the centre "too little, too late."
"This should have been something that maybe should have been up and going quite some time ago, when remote learning first started" Brazeau said. "We've had a number of months now to put everything together."
Brazeau wonders whether the centre will meet the needs of students, and said she would rather have seen the money spent on additional staff inside schools.
"For the most part, what I'm hearing from parents is that's it geared more toward teachers than students and parents, which is unfortunate because it's the students that really need the help right now."
Davidson said the centre is in the process of orienting the centre's teachers and staff. They will be available until June 2021, but the site's resources will be available well after that date.